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At once devastating and uplifting, Fleur Pierets turns grief into art, in a LGBTQ+ reimagining of Joan Didion’s ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’
Fleur and Julian wanted to get married in all the countries where same sex marriage was legal. Julian died after their fourth wedding…
What started as a beautiful act of LGBTQ+ protest art quickly turned to tragedy when Belgian artist and activist Fleur Pierets suddenly and unexpectedly lost her wife Julian P. Boom to brain cancer. In 2017, the soulmates were embarking on a special project they had conceived – ‘Project 22’ – so named after the number of countries which had legalised same sex marriage at the time. With an ambitious plan to marry in every country on the list, the pair only managed to cross off New York, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Paris, before Julian received her devastating diagnosis. Shortly after, she died.
In the years since, the number of countries to recognise same sex marriage has risen to 34 and similarly, Fleur’s love for her late wife has only increased. Amidst such loss, Pierets finds solace through her writing, art practice and LGBTQ+ activism, resulting in this stunning debut memoir which simply but poetically traces the limits of what grief can do to a person.
Julian is also an uplifting recounting of two women in love – from the exciting, early days of their relationship to its untimely ending. Fleur’s late wife Julian can be felt on every page, reminding us that no one ever really dies; it is memory which keeps us all alive.
With a nod to literary forebears such as Joan Didion, readers are hailing Julian a ‘LGBTQ+ version of The Year of Magical Thinking,’ while acclaimed American writer and essayist Siri Hustvedt has praised Pieret’s text for being ‘swift and lean and moving.’ The book is currently being adapted into a film by filmmaker Cato Kusters, produced by Lukas Dhont and Michiel Dhont, who recently made the Oscar-nominated film Close.
Translated from Flemish into English for the first time by Elisabeth Khan, Julian also marks the debut nonfiction title from fairtrade indie publisher 3TimesRebel Press, whose ethos can be explained as three-fold rebel: only translations from minority languages; only works by women; and only books which deal with challenging themes.
‘Julian is wonderful, which I know is strange to say about grief, but feeling and writing are two different things and the text is swift and lean and moving. I like the motion of the memories that has a fierce logic in the narrative.’
—Siri Hustvedt, Acclaimed American novelist and essaysist
Fleur Pierets is an award-winning Belgian artist and LGBTQ+ activist who work combines photography and performance with theory and writing in a research-based practice that questions the construction and mainstream understanding of gay identity. She is the founding editor of Et Alors?, an online magazine devoted to LGBTQ+ politics, fashion, identity, and other issues. Her book Life Is is forthcoming in May 2019 from the Dutch publisher Das Mag.
Fatinha Ramos is an award-winning Antwerp-based illustrator and visual artist originally from Portugal. Her work has appeared all over the world and received awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York, 3×3 (Magazine of Contemporary Illustration), Communication Arts, Global Illustration Award, World Illustrations Awards, White Ravens and many more. Her book Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color (Museum of Modern Art, 2017) was reviewed in the New York Times and has been translated in eight languages.
Sophie Seita is an artist and researcher whose work swims in the muddy waters of language, and explores materiality, gesture, and the speculative potential of the archive. She regularly performs and shows work across multiple media, publishes books, makes textiles and graphic scores, leads experimental workshops around voice, touch, translation, and queer performance, and is a Lecturer in the Art Department at Goldsmiths. Recent and current projects include: an exhibition at Mimosa House, performances and events at Nottingham Contemporary, Matt’s Gallery, Café Oto, the Royal College of Art, Independent Dance, Index (Stockholm), UP Projects, and community engagement projects at Grand Union (Birmingham), Creative Darlington, Curious Arts (Newcastle), and Ruta del Castor (Mexico City). She’s received grants and awards from Arts Council England, the Canada Council, British Council, DAAD, Creative Scotland, amongst others. She’s recently been an artist in residence at Britten Pears Arts, Freie Universität Berlin, and Brown University, and in 2024 will hold the Werner Düttmann Fellowship at the Akademie der Künste (German Academy of the Arts). Her latest book is Lessons of Decal, a queer bibliophilic memoir, forthcoming from the 87Press in December 2023. www.sophieseita.com