FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Last London

Iain Sinclair’s latest book begins with a vignette of a vagrant ‘buddha’ staring vacantly ahead while the creatures of contemporary London chatter and scream amid hordes of Boris bikes hurtling to and fro. This vagrant is both ‘real’ and an emanation of Sinclair himself, who begins tonight’s conversation by telling us his experience at Liverpool Street as he travelled to the reading. Waiting beneath the departure board, he overheard a man barking into his phone (I paraphrase) ‘As long as I get paid I don’t care where the money comes from, even if it’s from the Devil himself.’

Iain Sinclair – affable and erudite – believes Thatcherism and its legacy has led London to this ‘final Satanic moment’ in which the localities of London are all but obliterated and the memories attached to those territories are being overwritten by convenient, falsified histories with every passing day. Sinclair has written some seventy books. Eighteen are about London and attempt to defy this process. He considers himself a ‘prisoner of London’ restlessly mapping its topographical, architectural and temporal palimpsests, tirelessly recovering the stories (and ghosts) that fade and fall away as he reaches out for their rescue.

But now he feels that ‘London is no longer reachable’ by the techniques he has so meticulously refined over decades of writing and research. Though still passionate about acts of authentic testament to the lives and stories that remain to be preserved, the accelerated culture and global ‘multi-verse’ of contemporary experience means that digital media and internet driven technologies will, in all likelihood, be the only things capable of capturing the capital after ‘The Last London’ is superseded.

Sinclair says this may well be his last book about London. Let’s hope it’s not the last we hear of such a prodigiously gifted champion of lost histories and fascinating geographies.

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