The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City by Iain Sinclair - review by Christopher Woodward

Christopher Woodward

Capital Losses

The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City


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Iain Sinclair has walked the M25 for London Orbital and from Epping Forest to the Midlands to retrace John Clare’s flight from an asylum to his childhood home. This time he laces up his boots to crisscross London before it vanishes. He is confused, he declares: the city in which he has lived for fifty years has been ‘centrifugally challenged to the point of obliteration’. Will London become a ‘suburb of everywhere: Mexico City, Istanbul, Athens’? He ends on the eve of Brexit, walking from his home in Hackney to the site of the Battle of Hastings. When the vote is announced, he declares that London has been ‘abolished’.

Sinclair is a cult. His name on the cover of the London Review of Books is what F Scott Fitzgerald’s was to the Saturday Evening Post. The fans who pack his performances this autumn will get what they expect: graffiti read as street runes, eloquent puzzlement at the absurdity of word and image on the hoardings of hospitals gentrified into flats, and the same cast of companions in the alleys and underpasses – obscure dead writers and artists, even more obscure living writers, and forgotten English masterpieces found on second-hand bookstalls.

There is a guest appearance in The Last London by the ghost of W G Sebald, which appears at Liverpool Street Station, where Sinclair, as a young poet and gardener, worked sorting the night mail. The ghost is followed to the Alderney Road Jewish cemetery in east London overlooked by

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