"A Family Man" is the first work by V. S. Pritchett (Victor Swandon-1900 to 1997-Suffolk, UK) I have read. He is best known for his numerous short stories and he has also published essays on literary theory and criticism. Like a lot of writers, Pritchett first got started in writing working for a newspaper, in his case The Christian Science Monitor which sent him to Ireland and Spain. He also wrote five novels but he said it was his short stories that he loved writing and that was the part of his work that mattered to him.
I was happy to see that a story by Pritchett included in a work I recently acquired, The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories edited and introduced by Malcolm Bradbury contained a short story by V. S. Pritchett as I knew he was a highly regarded short story writer, though perhaps a bit neglected.
There are two on stage characters in "A Family Man", Bernice Foster who is having a clandestine affair with a married man, William Clark, and his wife Mrs Clark. The affair does not seem to be a serious emotional entanglement on either end and Bernice seems to like the wicked thrill of being the other woman. It is exciting not really knowing when her lover will show up. Bernice asked him if his wife was beautiful and he told her yes she was very beautiful. This only made Bernice feel all the more beautiful herself.
One day there is a loud knock on her door. A huge woman is at the door, so large she almost seems to fill up the complete door. Bernice cannot tell if she is also pregnant or simply a very big woman. The woman tells Bernice she knows what she has been doing with her husband, she in fact paid someone to watch Bernice's apartment for her. All of a sudden Bernice does not feel like the glamorous other woman any more and she no longer feels admiration for William as a man of sophisticated good taste.
At first Bernice does not know what to say. It was very interesting to see how she was able to manipulate Mrs Clark into believing a lie about her relationship with her husband and distract her from the truth.
"A Family Affair" is a very intelligent story about the self deception and rationalization of things we know sre wrong . I felt sympathy for everyone in the story except Mr. Clark.
In his introduction to the collection Malcolm Bradbury says some of the stories in the anthology are experimental works that attempt new literary techniques and some are examples of old fashioned straightforward story telling. "A Family Affair" is squarely in the second of these categories.
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