Tales of wonder from far and near that hold something for every reader
Short stories Best European Fiction 2014 Dalkey Archive Press, €13, tpbk
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The remarkable Dalkey Archive Press's annual anthology of new European writing arrives and for once Irish scribes don't get an outing. Aleksandar Hemon was editor in previous editions but there is no named editor here, though there is a lengthy introduction by Slovenian Drago Jancar. The former Yugoslavian countries are heavily featured.
There are pieces more suited to be read aloud in a public forum or on radio (The Man in the Yellow Parka and Fear of Ankles) and there are pieces where cleverness is the overriding factor, writers writing about writing, etc, and far too many references to modern technology, PCs, social media, etc. And there are the obvious space fillers, such as the surreal (The Teacher and the Parchment).
There are two Spanish pieces with sex the principal theme. Galician Xurxo Borrazas's is dreadful but Castilian Susana Medina's is exceptionally good.
Thankfully there are pieces of substance. My favourite is My Sister's Face by Norway's Kjell Askildsen; at 84, one of the oldest contributors.
It is a story of estrangement. Otto, Otto's ill sister and Otto's sister's husband. In a series of quiet, simple sentences, Askildsen creates a full life for these three desperate, dysfunctional people. It is glum, grim, yet every alcohol-induced second of it is masterly.
As in previous years, this curate's egg has something for everyone and is best enjoyed by being dipped into now and again.