On the day of the inquiry, my grandmother stayed home in her apartment, drank red wine on her couch, and watched back-to-back episodes of The Passionate Eye on CBC and growled, ‘All those goddamn people are crooked anyhow,’ and then she ordered in Chinese food and fell asleep for centuries. At the inquiry the man running the show walked to the front of the room and said that he had lost our book of names. My grandmother kept the list of names in the guest room, bottom-left corner of the bookcase. She opened the book and said, ‘This is my last birthday,’ and fell asleep again, while her apartment building rotated on the bird spine of a sundial. I went to the inquiry but never told her. She wouldn’t have liked it. The man at the front said without memories there is no past and furthermore everything you need to know is on The Passionate Eye on CBC. I went back home, hands empty. There was no inquiry in the place where her mother was from because they burned the Jewish men on the beaches and the Jewish women were the smoke. ‘Do you know how to name children?’ my grandmother said to me. ‘You take the initials of their dead relative and use them again and again so that the letters are never lost.’ This is written in a secret language. I often slept in her guest room except when I slept on the couch in the living room. I realized that the upholstery was patterned with her initials when I woke up to find her initials tattooed into my cheek. Alphabet welts, they faded but stayed.
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.
The Roads of London
Nobel Prize-winning Doris Lessing on her life, lovers and landlords in 1950s London.
Dreams for Hire
Nobel Prize-winning Gabriel García Márquez’s encounters with a clairvoyant in Vienna, Barcelona and Havana.
‘She does not go home for her mother's funeral because the prospect of return gives her insomnia. She splurges on a coat from Miu Miu instead.’
The Wind That Lays Waste
‘Leni’s last image of her mother is from the rear window of the car.’
The Way to the Sea
‘Alone in the silent dark, she traversed the mouth of the estuary in mile-long sweeps, making a little more progress up the river each time she turned. Wind and tide were pushing her away, back towards the sea.’