Gertrude Gibbons is a writer based in London. She studied Writing at the Royal College of Art, English and Related Literature at the University of York, and won runner-up for the Jacques Berthoud Prize in 2019. She is currently studying a PhD on archives and practices of language, translation and hybridity in European theatre from 1970s onwards at the University of York. She has written for The French Literary Review, NERO Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, The Theatre Times, Witkacy!, Still Point Journal among others. Her research includes Polish theatre and cultural reception in the UK and Italy, and writing about theories of absorption and seduction in the arts. She plays and teaches violin and has a keen interest in early music and opera. Other research areas include architecture, archives, graphics and design, and she is working on the archives of furniture designer and maker John Makepeace and of artistic director David Gothard.
As a young teenager she co-founded the experimental language group ‘Slavia’ and wrote two novels and a play: Plato’s Cave, performed at Arcola Theatre, Hackney, The Phaistos Disk (Ankrapath Press, 2012), and a second novel The Silent Violinist (Troubador Publishing, 2021). She is working on a collection of prose poetry engaging with the solo violin works of J.S. Bach. Gertrude has given creative writing workshops and participated in literary panel discussions in England and abroad. In 2018 with Derek Horton, she relaunched Soanyway magazine, an interdisciplinary platform which she co-edits and designs, publishing three issues a year with themed specials.
“My practice is informed by the idea that words are living, moving and delicate bodies. The movement from thought to word is a process and translation that is difficult; the word might damage or destroy the thought, and words once written have the potential to take on a life of their own that no longer belongs to the hand that wrote them. They live on after the mouth has closed or the page has been turned. I am interested in words which return to haunt or speak back to the writer or reader. My work considers the dimensionality of words, of their fixed place on the printed page as surfaces, but as bodies in motion while they are being read. I use their nature as pointers, always in the process of gesturing towards, speaking around, or ornately framing some object or idea.
I explore writing as a space for conversation, and weaving together various voices, through quotation, reference or story-telling. In my writing, music talks to sculpture, poetry reflects on painting, architecture speaks with theatre. I write as response, using one idea or medium as a window into another; a digressive starting point enables an unravelling of ideas, like in conversation. This, I think, is also how thoughts unfold, and my recent work has been exploring how to write the experience of encountering a work of art in the immediacy of the encounter; to write thoughts comprehensibly as they fall one after the other, linked and overlapping and slippery. I intend writing to be like the singing hand of a siren, calling through the mist to a reader at sea.”
The Silent Violinist came out on 28th August 2021!
Available from Troubador, Amazon, Waterstones etc. and any UK Bookshop!
What if all our lives were pieces of music? With alternating passages; fast, slow, melancholic, joyful. We make friends with those in the same key and fall out with those who aren't.
And what does music communicate? Might it speak to us, literally?
For Edith, a teenager in 1930s rural England whose whole life has been dictated by a backwards family forcing her into marriage with the sweet-eyed but boring Gabriel, music is an escape.
But her sensitivity towards it, her love of it, makes her special in a way she could never have believed. She is the only person able to understand the mute violinist as he speaks through his violin, and becomes wildly obsessed with his mythical beauty, to the point she thinks she has invented him and his voice. Through him, she learns to hear the trees and woodland creatures who follow him about everywhere.
Declared insane, hearing voices no one else can hear, her family puts her in an asylum. Here she begins to unravel the truth about the silent violinist and his siren twin who is stealing souls, crushing their songs. Unknowingly, she is part of an ancient battle between the Composer and Decomposer for control of the Songbirds in the mirror realm, the place our lives are sung. The situation becomes urgent when one of the siren's likely victims is Gabriel's sister Elizabeth: Edith must escape the asylum to help the violinist destroy the siren, reaching a climax as she fights against his powerful seduction.