As the UK remains in political disarray and large-scale protests against climate change
gather pace, it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the pieces in this issue of The White Review are bound by a sense of dystopia, whether real or imagined. We’re excited to publish a surreal, disorientating piece of ecofiction by Korean writer Kang Young-Sook, recounting an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in an uncanny suburban landscape. Estate agents leave bloody footprints on showroom floors; billboards sport images of the cows who are nowhere to be seen; and the protagonist — an artist — is plagued by desire for her mysterious double. This issue’s roundtable, marking two years since the Grenfell fire, is on the subject of housing: our participants discuss overcrowding, gentrification, fire hazards and austerity, in a frank and impassioned conversation. Meanwhile, Christine Okoth’s essay explores the uncomfortable reality behind feel-good capitalist narratives of sustainability, concluding that ‘the goal of environmentalist actions cannot be the continuation of systems that rely on exploitation, dispossession and racial hierarchies… Fighting against the condition of waste and wasting requires a different call to action; not to renew but to revolt.’
Corporate irresponsibility also drives Edward Herring’s short story RLT (pronounced ‘reality’), a chilling – and very funny – piece of reportage from a future where therapy corporations brainwash bankers to laugh at tragedy. This debut work is joined by fiction in translation from Portuguese writer and artist Patrícia Portela, a dreamlike journey across unknown borders. Carlos Busqued’s Magnetised is a gripping, collage-like true crime meditation, challenging conventional notions of ethics and evil, which gives voice to one of Argentina’s most notorious serial killers: ‘I don’t see the devil as an evil being. I would say that the word “devil” has been demonised. I see the devil more as a powerful being who helps those who believe in him.’ Taken together, these pieces offer grim insights into human suffering under the tightening structures of late capitalism.
Elsewhere, we’re delighted to feature an interview with the inimitable critic Terry Castle, full of her characteristic insight and wit, alongside a conversation with Enrique Vila-Matas, in which he describes watching Marcel Duchamp lose at chess and writing his first novel in Marguerite Duras’s apartment. And we are especially pleased to publish a series of poems by Charlotte Geater, winner of the second annual White Review Poet’s Prize, following Lucy Mercer (whose portfolio was published in No. 22). Like our short story prize, the Poet’s Prize is designed to offer a platform and support to early-career writers; the judges praised Geater’s exhilarating portfolio for its assured and idiosyncratic voice, formal risk and sonic daring. This issue’s cover is designed by Kaye Donachie, and accompanied by an extended series of her paintings and cyanotypes. In its subtle interrogation of the relationship between literature and art, Donachie’s work embodies a perennial preoccupation of The White Review. We hope you’ll find plenty in these pages that disturbs, provokes and entertains.