Real Time Short Stories

‘The sea has neither reason nor pity.’

Posted on: November 17, 2014

I’m still trying to tap these pieces out on my phone with one thumb so academic veracity is frankly a bit of a busk but when we talk about the birth of the modern short story, we go back to Poe and we go back to Chekhov, primarily because there we find the transition from the short tale as a succinct abridgement of the larger narrative to a specialised examination of the way life moves. The journey from one moment to the next.

Poe’s time passed by each moment creeping up on the last, magnifying unease and shrouded in trips and traps. Chekhov could see the passage of time in the way one moment withered away to form the next. The ultimate examination of withering time is Gusev, drawn from his own experience of a ship’s sick bay. There is a closing sequence, which once resembled a leap from realism to imagination but now I’m not so sure, in which Gusev, who has spent the story pinned to the ground in pain and convinced of his imminent recovery, died and is buried at sea. We follow his body floating down, inspected by a shoal of fish who then stand aside to allow Gusev his final moment with an almost disinterested shark. It is fantastically beautiful writing – the whole story – and I recommend Rosamund Bartlett’s translation.

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It’s 6.11am in the High Dependency unit.

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2 Responses to "‘The sea has neither reason nor pity.’"

What a great find this blog has been. Thank you for writing with such insight and honesty. All the best to you- I look forward to future posts.

I’ll have to come to you for lessons about the short story Din. I’ve only ever come to them by accident or because I need them for work; it’s lovely to read an account from someone who specialises in the genre and understands their purpose.

Take care, thinking of you, and eager to hear from Vic how you are doing.

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