Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"In Another Country" by David Constantine (2013 Frank O'Connor Prize Winner) - A Note on My Short Story Reading Goals

"Surely to God it wasn’t much to ask, that you get through to the end and looking back you don’t fill with horror and disappointment and hopeless wishful thinking?" - from "In Another Country" 

I just read yesterday a 1996 Paris Review interview with the fabulous Mavis Gallant in which she said collections of short stories by one author should not be read straight through as a novel but savored slowly.  I know she is right but I find it hard to resist the urge to read through a collection when it is by an author as wonderful as Gallant or David Constantine. 

"In Another Country", the title story in the very generous collection of his works, is the fourth story by Constantine which I have read and now posted upon.  This story centers on a couple mRried fifty years. The husband, eighty, is suffering from cognitive decline and we see how this distresses his wife. As the story opens they are talking about the discovery of the body of a young woman, frozen in the glaziers of Switzerland. We slowly learn the man and discovered woman had a romance when he was twenty.  They fled then Nazi Germany hoping to settle in Switzerland.  She dies on the way.  With the discovery of her body old long dormant wounds are opened.  The man, even though he clearly has no ability to do so, feels compelled to claim her body as next of kin.  She was pregnant when she died.  The couple had no children.

This is a beautiful if heartbreaking story about growing old, about a very long marriage.  I will remember it I hope for a long time. 

Future short story reading plans

As of today I have 163 short story books on my E reader, thousands of stories.  Most of these books I have been given.  Right now I am reading more or less straight through, contrary to Mavis Gallant's advise, a collection of her stories and one of forty stories by Anne Beattie.  I will mostly journalize my reading experience.  Other than posts on Indian and Filipino short stories, short story posts draw little readership.


David Constantine

Born in Salford in 1944, David Constantine worked for thirty years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published several volumes of poetry, most recently, Nine Fathom Deep (2009). He is a translator of Hölderlin, Brecht, Goethe, Kleist, Michaux and Jaccottet. In 2003 his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Lighter than Air won the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. His translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I was published by Penguin in 2005; Part II in April 2009. 

David's four short story collections are Back at the Spike, the highly acclaimed Under the Dam (Comma, 2005), The Shieling (Comma, 2009), which was shortlisted for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Tea at the Midland (Comma 2012). Constantine’s story ‘Tea at the Midland’ won the BBC National Short Story Award 2010, and the collection as a whole won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award in 2013. 

He lives in Oxford where, for ten years, he edited Modern Poetry in Translation with his wife Helen (until 2011). David's short story 'In Another Country' has been adapted into '45 Years' - a major film, directed by Andrew Haigh and starring Tom Courtenay & Charlotte Rampling. This film won two silver bear awards at the Berlin Film Festival, the Michael Powell Best British Film at Edinburgh, and the WFTV award for Best Performance (for Rampling)... It has also been nominated for nine international others....   (From Comma Publishing)


Suko said...

Mel, it can be difficult to slow down your reading when you're on a roll! I had a similar experience recently where I read short stories (about NY) on my phone in rapid succession--because they were so good. You can always go back to savor them (or parts of them) at a later time!

I'm glad you're enjoying your reading. Have a great weekend.

Buried In Print said...

Maybe one way to kind of follow Mavis Gallant's advice, but still move steadily through your many collections, could be to rotate amongst a few different writers' collections. So that, at least, you would have a bunch of other stories between some of Mavis Gallant's, to make them last a little longer?! :-)

Mel u said...

Suko. Sometimes I feel I read too fast but then you can always go back and reread

Mel u said...

Buried in Print. I imagine how draining it would be to read numerous Alice Munro short stories back to back. I thing your idea is probably the best practice