Issues of The White Review are not planned around a theme, but sometimes one asserts itself. Speaking to the writer Margo Jefferson, Zinzi Clemmons suggests we might think of Jefferson’s work as ‘arguing for nuance in order to rethink identity’. With contributors from across a wide range of experiences and nationalities (we count eight), this issue argues for the importance of a multiplicity of voices, and the opportunity for those voices to contradict and complicate themselves over time. In their own ways, each contributor measures the distance between their origins and the way they consider their identities today, and interrogates the idea of identity as a fixed or single state.
‘I wanted to find a place for myself,’ explains Jefferson. ‘I didn’t want to come up
with performances of what I was calculating and sometimes seeing as the preferred authentic stances. So I had to find a legitimate space.’ Annie Ernaux, in her interview with long-term fan Lauren Elkin, traces the gap between her working-class origins
and her current status as one of France’s pre-eminent writers: ‘It’s very spatial, as if
there were two different places that had to be brought together: the place I started from, which has a certain violence, and the world of literature. In a way, every time I write, I’m conquering something.’ This difference Ernaux identifies, which is the continued difficulty of accessing culture if you are from a working-class or minority background, is something we wanted to recognise through our roundtable on class. Participants share the ways they came into consciousness about their own class identities, the compassion required to approach our differences, and the limits of diversity measures. It’s a subject far too complex and difficult for a single session to do it justice; over the coming months we’ll continue the conversation on our website.
Elsewhere, we present a wide-ranging interview with the artist Mernet Larsen, who explains the way she began to refigure her earlier work to find new stories and meanings within it, resisting the idea of the finished artwork or any single interpretation. Allison Katz, too, repeatedly samples and adapts her own images, and we’re excited to have an original piece by her as our front cover, followed by a series of her highly playful posters. Kevin Brazil considers what a queer museum might look like — one which recognises selfhood as an invention, and challenges the impulse to contain and tame an identity that is by its nature unfixed. Sandip Kuriakose applies similar thinking to the art and gay scenes in Delhi, two worlds united by the centrality of images, through which identities — and desires — are constructed. In an essay exploring her Palestinian-Chilean ancestry, Lina Meruane asks how faces can reveal, hide or deceive. As she narrates a trip to Beit Jala to visit relatives, she examines the shifting sands of history and memory.
We’re delighted to publish the first English translation of Japanese author Nanae Aoyama; ‘Kakera’ (published here as ‘Fragments’) made her in 2009 the youngest ever winner of Japan’s prestigious Kawabata Yasunari Prize. We’re also thrilled to present newly translated fiction from 2018’s Man Booker International Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, a deliciously dark and surreal story of unusual familial relations. Finally, we are excited to publish ‘The Great Awake’ by Julia Armfield, the winner of our fifth annual short story prize. Praised by the judges for its ambitious concept, and the skill with which Armfield pulls it off, the story is testament to the continued power of the prize to discover and create a space for new talent.