Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"The Old Man and the Suit" by Kit de Waal (2014)

Event Resources  Everyone Is Invited to Join Us for Irish Short Story Month Year Four

Ways to Participate-do a post on your blog and let me know about it-I will keep a master list and I will publicize your post and blog.

If you are an Irish author and would like to be featured, please contact me.   There are several options open.

If you would like to do a guest post on my blog on anything related to Irish short stories, contact me

"The Old Man and the Suit" by Kit (Mandy) de Waal was second place for the highly prestigious Costa 
Short Award for 2014. (I include a link to the story at the bottom of this post).  The biggest beneficiary of a Irish Short Month is me through the wonderful new to me writers I discover.  De Waals six page story brings to life three generations of an Irish family.  As I read the story it brought to my mind Eastern European and Russian masters of the short story like Isaac Babel, Lamed Shapiro, Anton Chekhov and Isaac Singer.  I can also see this story comfortably in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio.  It echoes the foundational western myth of Orpheus, for me at least.  It also is very much about loss, death, entrapment, the nature of art and love.

The story is set in Dublin, in the basement tailor shop where an old man works with his young grandson making suits.  The elder man once worked also with the boy's father, who died so long ago the grandson cannot remember him.  The grandfather tries to impart to the son his love of creating a fine suit.  They live, along with the boy's mother, upstairs. 

"‘When you make a suit, Malachy,’ he says, ‘a man wears it and he goes to the theatre. His friends see him and they say, ‘You look good, you’ve lost weight.’ The man goes home to his wife. She smiles and says ‘You’ve had a good day.’ At the office, they think he has a mistress.’ The boy nods and returns to his work."

The only window in the basement shop looks out on a busy street.  The boy looks at the legs and shoes of the girls walking by and wonders if the years as a tailor will give him a hunched back look will women reject him. 

The man tries to help his grandson sees the art in a suit of clothes.  The old man has been at this all his life, the young boy looks out the window and sees his future unfolding.  You can feel his deep love for his grandfather but he also longs for the world above.  The life of tailor in a basement is not one a young man seeks for himself. 

I do not wish to tell more of this story other than to urge you to give yourself the experience of reading it.  I have read it four times. 

You can read "The Old Man and the Suit" here 

Author  Bio

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham of Irish and French Caribbean parents.  She worked in criminal and family law for fifteen years and now writes flash fiction, short stories and longer form prose. She is published in various anthologies (Fish Prize 2011 & 2012; ‘The Sea in Birmingham’ 2013; ‘Final Chapters’ 2013’) and works as an editor of non-fiction.  She came second in the Costa Short Story Prize 2014 with ‘The Old Man & The Suit’.  She is currently working on a novel ‘The Scarlet Emperor’. 

I will be posting a very interesting Q and A de Waal has kindly done and hope to also publish some of her short stories.

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