An exploration of artistic freedom, survival, and the hidden places of the imagination, including James Baldwin in Provence, JosephineBaker inParis, Kevin Killian in San Francisco, and E. M. Forster in Cambridge, among other groundbreaking queer artists of the twentieth century.
Nothing Ever Just Disappears is radical new history of seven queer lives and the places that shaped these groundbreaking artists.
At the turn of the century, in the shade of Cambridge's cloisters, a young E. M. Forster conceals his passion for other men, even as he daydreams about the sun-warmed bodies of ancient Greece. Under the dazzling lights of interwar Paris, Josephine Baker dances her way to fame and fortune and discovers sexual freedom backstage at the Folies Bergère.
And on Jersey Island, in the darkest days of Nazi occupation, the transgressive surrealist Claude Cahun mounts an extraordinary resistance to save the island she loves, scattering hundreds of dissident artworks along its streets and shorelines.
Nothing Ever Just Disappears brings to life the stories of seven remarkable figures and illuminates the connections between where they lived, who they loved, and the art they created. It shows that a queer sense of place is central to the history of the twentieth century and powerfully evokes how much is lost when queer spaces are forgotten.
From the suffragettes in London and James Baldwin's home in Provence, to Kevin Killian's San Francisco and Derek Jarman’s cottage in Kent, this is both a thrilling new literary history and a celebration of freedom, survival, and the hidden places of the imagination.
About the Author
Dr. Diarmuid Hester is a writer and academic based at the University of Cambridge. He is a radical cultural historian and an authority on sexually dissident literature, art, film, and performance. Diarmuid is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English at the University of Cambridge, and a research associate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, the Irish Times, gorse, n+1, The New Inquiry, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the author of Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper (University of Iowa Press, 2020).
"Hester takes us on an investigation that spans the last two centuries and different cities all over world. The book is thoughtfully researched and strikes a wonderful balance between biographical information and Hester’s own assumptions and assertions about these people’s lives. As he mentions many times in the book, much of the history of some of the queer activists and artists is unwritten or poorly documented, so we must use what we know in conjunction with our imaginations to fill in some gaps. Hester gracefully manages to accomplish this throughout the entire book." — Autostraddle
"In Nothing Ever Just Disappears, Hester wanders in search of kinship with queer bohemians such as James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and Kevin Killian. Making my way through the book, it felt like a literary walking tour across carefully selected corners of queer history." — Hyperallergic
"Fascinating journeys into LGBTQ+ courage. Nothing Ever Just Disappears is structured around eight different locations, most visited by the author, and leads the reader through 'the queer spaces of the 20th century.' Hester is attentive to atmosphere, as influenced by both culture and community, and how it acts on individual lives, sometimes expanding horizons and sometimes restricting them. Nothing Ever Just Disappears celebrates the courage it took for these queer people merely to exist, and exist honestly, in a hostile world." — The Guardian
“Writing from the perspective of a queer Irishman who has made Cambridge his adopted home, Hester explores ‘the queer spaces of the twentieth century,’ homes and haunts. A lovely literary and artistic pilgrimage.” — Booklist
“Evocative. This incisive chronicle from Cambridge University historian Hester examines the 'significance of place' in the lives of queer artists. A scintillating investigation of the intersection between environment, creativity, and identity.” — Publishers Weekly
"A personal and historical engagement with the places where queer art and culture have thrived. A consistently engaging book, rich in interest for cultural history buffs and warm and poetic in personal observations. An evocative reminder that it matters where we live—and where art is made." — Kirkus Reviews
“Nothing Ever Just Disappears is about what happens to a house or a room, or a whole town or city, when it is transformed by a powerful sensibility. With originality and subtlety, Diarmuid Hester examines how the gay imagination deals with place and with displacement, allowing for mystery and a kind of magic.” — Colm Tóibín, New York Times bestselling author of Brooklyn
“Hester’s book is insightful, delightful, and enlightening: an essential entrant into the queer canon.” — Isabel Waidner, author of Corey Fah Does Social Mobility and Sterling Karat Gold
“A charming, playfully challenging companion on a dreamy quest through lost landscapes of defiance, imagination and desire.” — Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“The famous and the unfamous, a world we didn’t know and a world we thought we did, all these appear and are remade under the regard of Hester’s scholarship and storytelling. And the questions that appear—how are we made by the spaces in which we live, how do we in turn shape them, this dance of place and self, that in turn allows us a glimpse of our lives, and we in turn are remade as well." — Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel