Granta 114: Aliens, Edited by John Freeman

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The Independent Culture

This latest Granta collection explores both the eponymous theme of alienation and its inverse - notions of home.

Outsiders negotiating displacement - cultural, national existential - range from same sex couples in South Africa (in Mark Gervisser's "Edenvale") to Japanese brides-to-be on a boat bound for their new world in Julie Otsuka's wonderful opening story, "Come, Japanese!" in which the boat itself becomes a kind of home, to Ann Patchett's moving reflections on ageing nuns who regard the wider world with child's eyes after a lifetime of convent living.

Paul Theroux's outsider sensibility is tinged with as much melancholia as the fascination of a perennial traveller. The theme, which could have run the risk of worthiness, works well, as poetic in parts as plaintive.