For post-Brexit British liberals living in an increasingly authoritarian state, it’s easy to romanticise the idea of Europe as a utopia of tolerance, progress and international cooperation. Published in 2019, in a year when the UK and the EU remained entrenched in seemingly interminable rows about the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc, Granta 149 shows up the cracks in that utopia.
Much of the anthology – which contains fiction, essays and poetry, as well as a photo essay – covers depressingly familiar ground: the resounding aftereffects of the two world wars, and especially the Holocaust; modern anti-immigrant sentiment and policy across the continent; the effects of European colonialism and economic imperialism.
Highlights for me included an essay on the interaction of the Swedish asylum process with trauma, and the way in which help is thus denied to the most vulnerable; a piece on depictions of Saint Benedict the Moor in Sicily; and the aforesaid photo essay, which consists of images of temporary refugee housing without their inhabitants, drawing out the contingent nature of the concept of home.
I don’t think I’m ever going to be a regular reader of Granta, but I found this a thought-provoking and worthwhile read.