He is one of contemporary literature’s greatest walkers, teasing out lost and overlooked histories with every step. Join Iain Sinclair as he shares his interests and fascination with the culturally resonant and richly rewarding landscape around Snape Maltings.
What does walking mean to Iain Sinclair? “Everything... It's opening up your system to the world, making the skin porous, letting all the impressions pour through and charging circuits to be able to write. And the burning of neural pathways is when you've established a set of pathways in the head. To go somewhere new is to feel the brain is being remapped, in an interesting way. And you hope that by doing that, a new form of writing might emerge”.
A writer and filmmaker, Iain Sinclair’s early work was mostly poetry, much of it published by his own small press, Albion Village Press. He was (and remains) closely connected with the British avant garde poetry scene of the 1960s and 1970s – authors such as Edward Dorn, J. H. Prynne, Douglas Oliver, Peter Ackroyd and Brian Catling are often quoted in his work and even turn up in fictionalized form as characters; later on, taking over from John Muckle, Sinclair edited the Paladin Poetry Series and, in 1996, the Picador anthology Conductors of Chaos.
His early books Lud Heat (1975) and Suicide Bridge (1979) were a mixture of essay, fiction and poetry; they were followed by White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), a novel juxtaposing the tale of a disreputable band of bookdealers on the hunt for a priceless copy of Arthur Conan Doyle'sA Study in Scarlet and the Jack the Ripper murders (here attributed to the physician William Gull).
Sinclair was for some time perhaps best known for the novel Downriver (1991), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prizeand the 1992 Encore Award. It envisages the UK under the rule of the Widow, a grotesque version of Margaret Thatcheras viewed by her harshest critics, who supposedly establishes a one party state in a fifth term. Radon Daughters formed the third part of a trilogy with White Chappell, Scarlet TracingsandDownriver.
The volume of essays Lights Out for the Territory gained Sinclair a wider readership by treating the material of his novels in non-fiction form. His essay Sorry Meniscus (1999) ridicules the Millennium Dome. In 1997, he collaborated with Chris Petit, sculptor Steve Dilworth and others to make The Falconer, a 56-minute semi-fictional "documentary" film set in London and the Outer Hebrides about the British underground filmmaker Peter Whitehead. It also features Stewart Home, Kathy AckerandHoward Marks. Sinclair is renowned for using London and its environs as a central theme and his depictions of London (in fiction and non-fiction) have become associated with the term psychogeography. Simply defined, this means that the influence of place on the emotions is explored and made explicit.