Why do some people take care not to step on the cracks in the paving while others take no notice whatever of the cracks? One says ‘cracks’ but of course they are not cracks; they are the edges where, apparently, one square of paving ends and another begins. That one calls them cracks is significant; it betokens a recognition of a surface that might be broken through, a surface that keeps separate the overness from an underness in which move creatures of the other in ways not to be understood by us. Who has not at one time or another sensed in that dark otherness, sometimes quaint and solemn, sometimes mad and strangely echoing, the footplacer? Yes, yes, the footplacer: in the concrete underfoot it lives and walks, not in hollow spaces but molecularly in the solid concrete; particularly it is to be found in the concrete station-platforms of the underground; it is upside-down to us and we are upside-down to it as it places its feet softly one by one against our pacing feet. Perhaps it thinks of us as being the reflection or the shadow of its own walking; perhaps footplacers talking amongst themselves call us footplacers, think of us as strange beings who walk upside-down aboveground softly placing our feet one by one against theirs. The footplacer is a cumulative creature; as it places its feet against our feet all the footsteps of our lives are added up and gathered into it. Where did we go and when? What did we do there? All those footsteps have been gathered up into the footplacer, all those goings that are gone.
Footplacers, London Transport, Owls, Wincer-Boise
40 Years of Granta
From the editor’s desk
Correspondence from our archive, from Kazuo Ishiguro, Kingsley Amis, Doris Lessing, Martha Gellhorn and more.
How to Write About Africa
The late Binyavanga Wainaina's iconic satire is one of Granta's best-loved essays.
Angela Carter is best known for her adaptations of fairy tales, and ‘Cousins’ is one in her quartet of wolf stories.
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Nobel Prize-winning Doris Lessing on her life, lovers and landlords in 1950s London.
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The Boat Train
‘The train wheels, now authorized to take up their song of distance, clacked and clattered their traditional shanty of miles.’
The Devil’s Kitchen
‘I'll now describe this artefact as precisely as I can because I want to make it perfectly clear that when I bought it there was no reason for me to think that it was anything more than what it appeared to be.’
The Man with the Dagger
‘I thought the story would be the most likely place to look for Dahlmann, so I went there.’
A Conversation with the Head of Orpheus
‘Far, far away in the night are live human beings whose breathing can be heard as they speak, and they're looking at their illuminated dials as I look at mine at this end of the darkness that curves with the night miles to the heave and swell of the ocean dawn.’