Nepenthe is a drug described in Homer’s Odyssey Book IV. It banishes grief or trouble from a person’s mind, inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, soothing and agreeable. Helen of Troy mixed the drinks that day, to help those grieving for the dead after the Trojan war. She did it in secret, so they would not lose face by being calmed, and could go on enjoying their remaining time together.
Nepenthe Press wants to offer books and writing which allow for being in another world where the imagination roams and feelings expand, or contract, books which do something for us beyond the bounds of everyday expectation, where things don’t have to be familiar, to make “sense” by conforming to norms which through some invisible process have become standards against which all reading and writing is measured. Reading and writing today plunge us further into our sorrows through its rigid frameworks and expectations, its focus on manufactured horror, commodified crime, sanitised death. We need a different kind of reading and writing.
Here’s why. Books have become a regularised and routinised product, like breakfast cereal. There are a hundred, a thousand, varieties, but they all taste the same.The new technologies of communication were supposed to open the literary landscape to everything and make all things possible, but instead the world of writing/reading has been sinking ever deeper into a bog or maybe it’s a quicksand. Nepenthe wants to take a walk on another side, to go around or through obstacles and find a new way of responding to reading and writing whilever there is still time in this bizarre and quite possibly doomed century.
Nepenthe is at the beginning of its existence at a time when existence itself is felt to be in peril. If this comes to be reflected in its publications, that is only to be expected. But hopefully many writers can respond to these conditions through honesty and humour, with compelling ideas and images that may give hope and good feelings for whatever time remains.