Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit - review by Sophie Duncan

Sophie Duncan

Fighting for the Freedom of the City

Recollections of My Non-Existence


Granta Books 244pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Recollections of My Non-Existence is a memoir of the quarter-century in which Rebecca Solnit lived in a San Francisco studio, emerged as a writer and discovered gay culture, activism and (belatedly) the friendship of women. The book maps Solnit’s journey from struggling undergraduate to feminist authority, via her writings on inequality, the American West, walking and New Orleans, which have established her reputation as a fearless author and rigorous thinker. The memoir is full of these preoccupations and figures from Solnit’s life, ranging from the Californian artists who were the subject of an early book to the Crescent City chiromancer who told her, ‘Despite everything, you are who you were meant to be.’ Much in evidence, too, is Solnit’s characteristically hypotactic prose, with its long lines and heart-twisting tricks as sentences end.

Solnit is candid about the contradictions of her own life: how, for instance, her impoverished presence in a Lyon Street studio southeast of the cemetery district was enabled by her mother, whose signature on Solnit’s application form convinced the building’s management company to approve her tenancy, and contributed

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