To be honest, I have never been a great reader of short stories. I’m not sure what it is, but I have generally found the novel form more satisfying, as a reader. Last year I read some Murakami short stories, which I enjoyed and, as a student I read many German short stories (especially Kafka, Mann, Kleist and Duerrenmatt), all of which I loved, but apart from that, I haven’t indulged in the form very much. I do, though, make an exception for M. R. James.
So, a couple of weeks ago I was in Bucharest and, looking for somewhere to shelter from a downpour, discovered a new English language bookshop in the centre of the city. I felt obliged to buy something and, for reasons unclear to me, my attention was caught by Philip O Ceallaigh’s Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse. O Ceallaigh is an young writer, an Irishman living in Bucarest, and this collection has won a number of prizes and accolades. Some of this is wonderful stuff and O Ceallaigh, with a wry sense of humour, captures Bucharest perfectly – not only a city rediscovering its youthful energy and intellectual and artistic traditions in the new Europe, but also a city still wearing the yoke (not least architecturally) of the Ceaucesu years. I particularly enjoyed the opening short piece called ‘Taxi’ and the second much longer piece ‘In the Neighbourhood’, which offers a delightful series of character sketches whilst commenting profoundly on the social reality of living in a Bucharest appartment complex. The story ‘A Performance’ is also a memorable piece and redolent of Kafka, especially ‘Der Hungerkuenstler’.
I still expect that novels will constitute the bulk of my reading, but I enjoyed this collection and may be visit the short story form a little more often in the future.