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The Crack Magazine


Granta 157 - Should We Have Stayed at Home (New Travel Writing)

William Atkin’s introductory piece alone is worth the entry price. His dissection of the worst traits of travel writing along with the best traits acts as a benediction: we can read Granta 157, Should We Have Stayed at Home, in the knowledge we haven’t paid for a climate killing jet to transport one of the usual suspects to blanket us in a sweatily uncomfortable literary hauteur. Arguably, the new travel writing is about discomfort but not in the sense of a snobby old git toughing it out in a hostile landscape but in the sense of what hostile landscapes mean to the people who live (or even want to leave) there. It’s also about borders, mental but more often physical, particularly those that rebuff rather than welcome (and why). And is travel writing (of any stripe) enough when the migration of people due to climate change, war and persecution is likely to increase? As William Atkins writes, “Putting together this volume has confirmed to me that conscious, conscientious travel (and writing about it) goes hand in hand with an ethos of hospitality”. And there’s no better piece in Should We Have Stayed at Home than Javier Zamora’s letters to Francisco Cantu - someone who was a child immigrant writing to someone who was a border patrol guard, “Citizen or undocumented. Border Patrol or immigrant. These are just a few of the uniforms we’ve put on…and now you and I have another uniform, that of friends”. There are also great pieces by Kapka Kassabova, Emmanuel Iduma and Pascale Petite among others. In these varied pieces Granta 157 is an important precursor to what travel writing might become in the future, in Jan Morris’s words, “…a pursuit for unity and even an attempt to contribute to a sense of unity”.

Granta 157 - Should We Have Stayed at Home (New Travel Writing) - Edited by William Atkins – publ. by Granta - £14.99

Steven Long