Granta 109: Work, ed John Freeman
Sunday 14 February 2010
"Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness," wrote Sigmund Freud, but it is love that garners more pages of literature. This wonderful anthology, exploring how work might endow or deprecate our self-worth, does much to reassert the balance, however. The collection spans the globe, describing a vast array of working lives in Kenya, China, Rwanda, Peru, Sierra Leone, Dublin, Johannesburg and Essex – the latter in Sir Peter Stothard's poignant conjuring of his childhood in the Marconi work village.
While work may vary vastly, the fundamental connection between work and identity binds us all. The extent to which the professional and personal are interwoven is explored throughout this collection; we see people attempt to extricate the two, but there are times when their intimate connection becomes painfully apparent, such as when one loses the livelihood it has taken a lifetime to build up. In a powerful extract from Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's forthcoming memoir of his childhood in rural Kenya, we see his father, "the man who had had everything [but] had now lost it all", spiralling into drinking and violence as the "delicate balance of power" that makes a life is disrupted. If we are what we do, what happens when we lose that very function that sustains us?
"Rights", both abused and struggled for, feature strongly. Daniel Alarcon writes about the director of an independent publishing house fighting hard to protect the rights of authors in Peru. And we see how love and work may be united, in pieces by Kent Haruf, on his time working in a hospice; Aminatta Forna, writing about vets; and Yiyun Li, on reading newspapers.
Even in these times of recessionary doom and gloom, reading about business can be a pleasure. These essays and photographs are labours of love.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stephen Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: ‘Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and chairs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'
- 4 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 5 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action