Sigrid Rausing tells us about vergissmeinnicht – forget me not. Using the title for Edition 154 – I’ve been away for while – there is a recurring theme of death and the need to go back to it. An example is Lyndsey Hilsum’s memoir of the Hutu and Tutsi was in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. She goes back to notes at the time for a raw story of the aftermath with an outbreak of Cholera. It was recited with all the horror of the time.
Ian Jack brings another different story with history of brick towers in Victorian Glasgow that set Britain apart in the industrial age – a combination of back story that eventually ran out of steam as technology moved on. The highlight of the edition is Rory Gleeson’s first person account of the beginning of the pandemic in Italy, the chaos, panic and engulfment that could have happened anywhere but did so in northern Italy – an opportunity for UK to learn before it took off here, alas lessons were not learned. A touching account that, at this time is still very real for us and we have yet to stand back and review.
On the fiction side Gwendoline Riley’s Phantoms captured me with its portrayal of the father: “between your mouth and his ear the facts got bent backwards.” Dan Shurleys extract however lacked consistency .
The low point was Vidyan Ravinthiran’s which was supposed to be about missing children in Sri Lanka’s war instead became a meandering thoughtpiece littered with assumptions and subjective judgements.
With reportage and memoir for the industrial revolution, cholera, and coronavirus pandemic and fiction about a wandering father this was an inconsistent edition but with enough to justify it.