This is Anakana Scofield’s second novel. I seemed to have missed her first, Mularky. Martin John [High Wycombe: & Other Stories, 2016] is an artistic and intellectual tour de force. In the tradition of writers who can project themselves into the mind, mannerisms and minefield of seeing the world from an altogether different and damaged perspective (for example, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) Schofield creates a character whom we might well cross the street to avoid but who, even so, deserves our compassion.
Haroldo Conti wrote Southeaster in 1962 and went on to write more novels which led to Gabriel García Márquez describing the author as one of the great Argentinian writers. Conti knew the Paraná Delta of which he writes in this book and knew the way a south-easterly wind could pile up the waters in the delta, flooding the low-lying islands. The translator, Jon Lindsay Miles has worked hard to try and convey the rhythmic pulse of the original Spanish and, working from English only, I feel he has achieved a great deal.
This is Moriera Marques’s first book; a slim volume with not a syllable wasted (London: & Other Stories, 2015. Translated by Julia Sanchez). Now and at the hour of our death comes from this award-winning journalist’s visits, over a period of five months in 2011, to northern Portugal, to an out of the way part of an already remote region known as Trás-os-Montes; in other words, over the hills and far away. She went there to observe the work of a team of healthcare professionals as they worked to bring palliative care to dying patients in that otherwise forgotten part of the country. The aim of the team was to help their patients live out the end of their lives in as much comfort and with as much dignity as possible; dying in company and at home.
With her slim volume of short stories, Angela Readman helps to make the point that while novels can be fine wines that one might enjoy, a bottle at a time, but maybe spread over more than one meal, short stories are the pure spirit distilled with care, to be sipped, one at a time and spread over a short time so as to enjoy each to its fullest extent. Don’t Try This At Home is twelve shots of 100% proof and each will leave you mildly euphoric, transported to different worlds at the edge of reality. It is truly worth the journey.
Proving that often adversity can produce great literature, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel was born in Equatorial Guinea and his parents came from the remote Annobón Islands, miles off shore which was, then and now, not a great place to grow up. By Night the Mountain Burns, though fictional, is clearly based on the author’s own experiences. The un-named narrator is recollecting his childhood there and opening up to the reader the conventions, taboos and cultural practices of islanders who seldom saw anyone from the outside world apart from the local priest. And that priest used the Latin liturgy which was wholly unintelligible to the native population.