essays - 14-18 NOW

Extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War

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Curated by Lavinia Greenlaw

Goodbye To All That

July 2014

Read the essays online Buy the book
  • JEANETTE WINTERSON

    WRITING ON THE WALL

    ‘What are our human needs? Love and friendship, family life, education, intellectual pursuit, sport, enquiry, curiosity, books, music, art in all its changing shapes and forms. We will all have things we want to add here, but the common denominator is creativity.’

  • COLM TÓIBÍN

    FEARING THE NIGHT

    ‘He made the war personal rather than political. He made the rhymes simple, natural. He made the voice eloquent, wise, accepting; he allowed it to whisper, as though to comfort those who feared the night in the aftermath of loss.’

  • XIAOLU GUO

    COOLIES

    ‘And if poppies make me remember anything, it is that the people are still oppressed, and slavery still exists. Either inside the country, or abroad, we Chinese have been living as coolies, and we still are coolies.’

  • ERWIN MORTIER

    THE COMMUNITY OF SEALED LIPS: SILENCE AND WRITING

    ‘The past cannot die in the act of remembering. It cannot become truly past because it is not given a story, and so remains hanging, unresolved, in silence—in the community of sealed lips.’

  • NOVIOLET BULAWAYO

    NOVIOLET BULAWAYO

    ‘I imagine bones stirring in mass graves. Broken bones, smashed bones, desecrated bones, wronged bones, all rising as if they have heard their forgotten names read in a voice so loud it penetrated the earth.’

  • ELIF ȘAFAK

    IN SEARCH OF UNTOLD STORIES

    ‘Then why is it, I ask myself, that though women have been dominant in oral culture, their presence in written culture, especially in “highbrow literature”, has been so limited? For even though there are great female writers today, just like yesterday, the world of culture is dominated by men.’

  • ALEŠ ŠTEGER

    TEA AT THE MUSEUM

    ‘Yes, literature alone is a true testament of war. Forget about newspaper reports and official documents. Even letters to soldiers, penned by their wives, can be questionable. The closest we can get to what truly happened may be in literature and photography, perhaps some films. Historical essays almost always serve one ideology or another.’

  • DANIEL KEHLMANN

    A VISIT TO THE MAGICIAN

    ‘They stand in a line and look at one another with a strange sort of pride. He has given his orders, they have obeyed them, and they like themselves in this role. He’s stopped using suggestibility, they’re no longer in a trance, what’s been issued here is a straightforward order, point-blank, brutal.’

  • KAMILA SHAMSIE

    GOODBYE TO SOME OF THAT

    ‘Why should I have to consider my own nation, religion, complexion when reading? Surely the whole point of reading was that fiction had nothing to do with a person’s lived experience? ’

  • ALI SMITH

    GOOD VOICE

    ‘I look at the line of men with the rifles aimed. It’s just another random image. I’m looking at it and I’m feeling nothing. If I look at it much longer something in my brain will close over and may never open again.’

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