Every schoolday for six adolescent years I used to travel by the Metropolitan, Bakerloo and finally District (or Circle) Line from Northwood in Middlesex to Blackfriars. My school was in the heart of London, its main steps across from the Thames; there was just a short walk to St Paul’s for the annual commemoration of our benefactors. This transition from calm, green suburbia to vibrant metropolis felt in the main a simple psychological process: from family dullsville to the centre of the world. But there was one thing—one building—one part of one building—which usefully complicated such daily world-turning.
The Stinky Ocean
‘It was a peculiar, alopecic landscape of hummocks and gullies, with patches of grass growing on what looked like white earth, and rarely a soul to be seen.’
Ian Jack on the legacy of the Scottish textile bleaching industry.
I’ve Been Away for a While
‘When the world releases him from its oily grip will there still be a world?’
Fiction by Dan Shurley, featuring the 2019 explosion of an oil refinery in Philadelphia.
Death Takes the Lagoon
‘Black waves bring animals to the town’s shore. Sticky corpses float on the oil.’
Ariel Saramandi on the sinking of the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius.
House of Flies
‘None of us hung out with them or knew them really, except two boys in our class, who stopped going to school after crude oil became such a big deal.’
A story by Claudia Durastanti, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris.
‘His best photographs are expressionistic, almost calligraphic, as though he’s displaying the hidden signatures our collective appetites have etched across the Earth.’
Anthony Doerr introduces the photography of Edward Burtynsky.