In advance of the opening of a major William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain on 11 September, Weidenfeld & Nicolson has acquired two books about the visionary poet and painter by John Higgs. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired from Sarah Ballard at United Agents.
William Blake, the poet, artist, engraver and author of the unofficial English national anthem ‘Jerusalem’, is an archetypal misunderstood genius. Like Vincent Van Gogh, he was mocked and ignored during his life, yet after his death he became globally recognised as a true great. Unlike Van Gogh, however, Blake’s work has a reputation for being difficult, if not incomprehensible. For all that there is something deeply appealing about his work that attracts generation after generation of admirers, he remains an enigma.
WILLIAM BLAKE NOW: Why He Matters More Than Ever is an illuminating essay in which Higgs explores what it is about Blake that has endured throughout contemporary culture – from video games to novels, from sporting events to political rallies and from horror films to designer fashion, proving that far from being the mere New Age counterculture figure that many assume him to be, the visionary poet and painter is now more relevant than ever. W&N will publish in paperback, ebook and audio download on 5 September 2019.
WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD will be a major new work on Blake. Higgs will roam wildly through culture, science, philosophy and religion in a bid to understand what was going on in Blake’s mind. The book will visit figures ranging from Albert Einstein to the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, discuss movements from the Levellers of the sixteenth century to the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, and explore the latest discoveries in fields such as neurobiology, quantum gravity and comparative religion. Taking the reader on wild and unexpected detours into unfamiliar territory, it will place the bewildering eccentricities of this most singular artist into context. But although the journey will begin with us trying to understand him, we will ultimately discover that it is Blake who helps us to understand ourselves. W&N will publish in hardback, ebook and audio download in May 2021.
Jenny Lord says: ‘John is one of the most erudite, imaginative and mischievous writers of his generation and it is hard to imagine a more perfect match of author and subject. WILLIAM BLAKE NOW is an exquisite little essay that packs an enlightening punch, and with WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD I have no doubt that John will deliver an important, fascinating and singular work on one of our most beloved artists and poets’
John Higgs says: ‘There is nothing as rich, empowering and illuminating as William Blake’s mental landscape, but it can appear bewildering and incomprehensible at first glance. It is a real honour to write a popular guide to that world, to bring Blake’s personal mythology into the present day and to show that a glimpse of Eternity is just what we need right now’
John Higgs is the author I HAVE AMERICA SURROUNDED, THE KLF, STRANGER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE, WATLING STREET and THE FUTURE STARTS HERE. He lives in Brighton with his wife and their two children.