The theme for this issue, Granta 160, revolves around conflict – a many layered thing – in the Ukraine, in the family and in work. Unlike previous issues many of the articles are actually about the theme.
The reportage piece from the war in Ukraine by Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News international Director is in a diary style. She travels around the Ukraine and captures the defiance of the population without the first hand experience of the horror on the battlefront. Considering this was written probably six months ago she concludes with a prophetic thought: “they (Russians) seem to have an endless supply of artillery, and may continue to fight even if neither side is gaining ground. I fear how much destruction and death will have been wrought by the time the tulips bloom next spring…” It’s looking like that…
There are some unremarkable pieces I moved through quickly – I am the Word for God and Boy by Aidan Cottrell-Boyce, and Talk America George Prochnik. I found the prose in The Recipe by Rebecca May Johnson increasingly challenging to read: “The recipe has a method for responding to things. Things have agency in many directions.” At times I was not sure what direction this think piece was itself heading in.
The photography by Thomas Duffield “Poppy Promises” was touching in how it brought the vulnerability in his relationship with this father to the fore. That said, the text messages added nothing of value – his own reflections on how fearful he was at the time of approaching his father are what made the photos come to life.
Skromnost by Janet Malcolm is a memoir of Czech parents bringing their own culture into America. Janet talks about how her mother’s use of her charm was lowering herself in America – this is when the generational differences also come in to play – how Janet regards her mother through her own feminist lens.
Suzanne Scanlon’s The moving target of Being is a haunting memoir of how a student ended up in a psychiatric hospital. At first it is predictable – the loneliness felt when in a city, the angst experienced with a boyfriend when one has moved away from home. It began with a nurse asking her questions, and being prescribed Prozac without having heard of it before. And then it spiralled as her boyfriend wanted to kill himself with pills and encouraged her to join him. She takes them herself and is admitted into hospital.
Dizz Tate’s Fatty is an amusing tale of a young woman working in a cafe in a mall watching the eccentricities in life pass by the window. Her co-worker provides the entertainment with the regular coffee guests.
With Sana Valiulina’s Fateha delves into her past about her grandmother, who ran the family, and their escape to German- held territory, away from Russia, ending up in Estonia.
Fault Lines by June Delury is a troubling story of a mother’s trials with her teenage daughter who rebels by not eating. The hospital want to take her in but the mother and father fight over what she should do and who is responsible. It is a dark tale of eating disorders, mothers trying to do the right thing in adversity.