Throughout Proust’s life, nine of his short stories remained unseen – the writer never spoke of them. Why did he choose not to publish them along with the others? One possible answer is that he was developing his themes in preparation for his masterpiece, ‘In Search of Lost Time’; another is that the stories were too audacious – too near to life – for the censorious society of the time. In these stories we find an intimate picture of a young author full of darkness and melancholy, longing to reveal his true self to the world.
Josephine Napier maintains order in her girls’ school through a benevolent exterior of self-sacrifice. But when a new, male teacher and a figure from her husband’s past upset her environment’s delicate equilibrium, the darker shades of her authority begin to show and a ruthless struggle for power begins. Tense and subversively witty, ‘More Women Than Men’ is a masterful unveiling of the covert allegiances and fierce conflicts produced by a claustrophobic world.
After having been recruited by Harvey Newbegin, the narrator travels from the bone-freezing winter of Helsinki, Riga and Leningrad, to the stifling heat of Texas, and soon finds himself tangling with enemies on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Teffi’s genius with the short form made her a literary star in pre-revolutionary Russia, beloved by Tsar Nicholas II and Vladimir Lenin alike. These stories, taken from the whole of her career, show the full range of her gifts.
Bigger Thomas refuses to accept, like his mother or his girlfriend, the panaceas of religion or whisky. Unwittingly involved in a wealthy woman’s death, he is hunted relentlessly. He only finally realises his individuality by facing his death.
One of the most popular American writers of the twentieth century, O. Henry’s comic eye and unique, playful approach to the rough material of life’s realities are unmatched. These stories, which range from the cattle-lands of Texas to the bars of New York, highlight the joys of avoiding habit and convention, and demonstrate O. Henry’s mastery of speech and place.
The quarter century or so before the outbreak of the First World War saw an extraordinary boom in the popularity and quality of short stories in Britain. Fuelled by a large new magazine readership and vigorous competition to acquire new stories and develop the careers of some of our greatest writers, these years were ones where the normal rule-of-thumb (novels sell, short stories don’t) was inverted.This was the era of Sherlock Holmes, of Kipling’s most famous stories, of M. R. James, Katherine Mansfield and Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’.
Boasting a veritable menagerie of characters, including dancing instructors, pies, and talking parrots, and written in the Franco-Italian story-telling tradition, ‘The Three Fat Men’, unquestionably the greatest Soviet children’s parable, is considered the absolute endorsement of the Communist regime.