I have spent much of this week reading short stories, as I’m one of three judging the annual Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for the best short-story collection. After poetry, short stories are, I think, the most difficult literary form to master. The author of a short story must perform a superhuman act of distillation to generate the same kind of momentum that a novelist can build up over the course of a much longer work. And a collection of stories must find a way to unify what are often highly disparate pieces. My reading thus far has been a huge pleasure and I’m confident that despite the difficulties booksellers have selling the stuff, the short story isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

One of the perks of working at Granta is the many proofs and manuscripts sent to us by publishers: it’s our job to know what will be in the bookshops and what kind of writing is exciting people. Currently I’m enjoying an American novel called Travel Writing by Peter Ferry (out in the UK in August), about the consequences of the small, white lie, and I’ve just begun The Cellist of Sarajevo by Canadian writer Steven Galloway (forthcoming from Atlantic). I’m not very far in yet but already Galloway has – very bravely – killed off a few of his main characters.

A spontaneous clear-out has unearthed the novel Journey by Moonlight, published in 1937 by Hungarian writer Antal Szerb, who was beaten to death in the forced-labour camp at Balf in 1945. I first came across Szerb through his critical work on the Austrian poet Georg Trakl, a writer with whom I was obsessed as an undergraduate, and Journey by Moonlight is a novel I’ve been wanting to read for years. Its appearance almost has me hoping for a return to the cold, rainy weather of last week – almost.

 

Photograph by Sam Greenhalgh

Charlotte Roche | Interview
Wonder Why