‘Underneath the endless, acute crises of our planet’, Jeanette Winterson argues, ‘is the chronic crisis of how we manage what it is to be human.’
She began with Dorothy Wordsworth walking the Lakeland fells in May 1800 and continued by way of Karl Marx, prehistoric cave painting, James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, John Maynard Keynes, Degas and the Arts Council, to arrive at the First World War and Wilfred Owen. All this in the space of a brilliant fifteen minute essay by Jeanette Winterson broadcast on Radio 3 last week.
Winterson’s essay was one of a series in which writers from different countries were asked to reflect on the meaning of the First World War for them personally, and as a creative artist. Lavinia Greenlaw, who curated the series, gave the contributors only the loosest of frameworks, borrowing the title, Goodbye to All That, from Robert Graves’s famously ‘bitter leave-taking of England’ in which he wrote not only of the First World War but also of the questions it raises: how…
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