Granta 105: Lost and Found, ed Alex Clark
Sunday 19 April 2009
Pipes and priests and petrol stations, wisdom teeth and wisdom, faith and friends, limbs and minds, Jammie Dodgers: these are just a few of the losses which percolate through the pages of the haunting new edition of Granta magazine.
To what extent can we shore up what has been lost? Efforts to do so are on display in compelling non-fiction accounts that range across the personal and political. Melanie McFadyean's "Missing" evokes the Needham family's anguished search for a lost child.
One of the trickiest of all losses is the elusive present moment. Elizabeth Pisani beguilingly recreates, from the conflicting accounts of a colleague and her own recollections of hunger and fear, her time as a cub reporter in Tiananmen Square. Pisani learns that "it is impossible to say what was remembered and what embroidered".
That fiction cleaves to loss is on dazzling display in the idiosyncratic voice of the late Altan Walker, whose frustrated protagonist feels the deathliness of life with a lover who is more enamoured of history than flesh and blood.
The pain inherent in empty spaces is depicted in AL Kennedy's short story, in which a 25 year-old having teeth removed learns the "coppery taste of absence". While she can numb herself to physical pain, there is a raw emotional pain throughout the collection. Writers stare into the void in accounts which are brave, unnerving and – to help bear the unbearable – infused with a good dose of humour.
The prose, poetry and excellent photography – such as Mimi Mollica's pictures of road-building across the sands of Senegal – capture the differing responses to the knowledge that the nature of life is loss.
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