This special, double issue of Granta is, for us, the most representative statement about what we are trying to express in contemporary writing. It is organized to fill a gap, a felt emptiness in current literary achievement. For the last twenty to twenty-five years – for the advent of the nouveau roman to the dessicated, pyrotechnical elaborations on footnotes that John Barth insists on calling literature – so much of what is regarded as the ‘avant-garde’ has been noteworthy only for its insignificance. At a time when it is imperative that we have a literature and a language that are responsible, accountable and instrumental to the lives we are having to lead – a literature that is an adversary of oppression and not an accomplice to it – we have instead a writing that is remarkable only for its dubious feats of technical virtuosity, its relentless self-referentiality and its deliberate retreat from experience. The ‘literary’ writing since the Second World War – the great postmodern experiments that assume not readers but tenured explicators – is a literature of no importance, dedicated to telling us how little it means.
A Literature of Politics is dedicated to a different set of possibilities – the possibilities of political engagement. In this, however, we are also dedicated to a different understanding of what constitutes political literature.