I Have More Souls Than One by Fernando Pessoa **** (#19)
Collected in the nineteenth Penguin Modern, Fernando Pessoa’s I Have More Souls Than One, are a series of poems which were written by Fernando Pessoa under four separate names, or ‘souls’: his own, Alberto Caiero, Ricardo Reis, and Alvaro de Campos. They were first translated to English from their original Portuguese in 1974. The blurb calls the collection ‘strange and mesmeric’, and details that they ‘express a maelstrom of conflicted thoughts and feelings’.
Whilst I preferred the poetry of some of these personas to others, I found each to be intelligent and insightful. Pessoa was clearly a very talented poet in the diversity of forms and subjects which he addresses and explores. This quite wonderful collection surprised and startled me in its clarity, and I definitely want to read the rest of Pessoa’s oeuvre in future.
The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson ***** (#20)
Shirley Jackson is one of my absolute favourite authors, despite having a couple of her novels still outstanding, and not yet having made a dent in her short stories. In The Missing Girl, says the blurb, ‘Malice, deception and creeping dread lie beneath the surface of ordinary American life in these miniature masterworks.’ Each of these stories – ‘The Missing Girl’, ‘Journey with a Lady’, and ‘Nightmare’ – appeared in a posthumous 1997 collection entitled Just an Ordinary Day.
Jackson is a veritable master at building tension, as anyone who has read a single one of her novels will recognise. Each of these tales is wonderfully unsettling for one reason or another, and I have never read a story like ‘Nightmare’ before; it is so unusual, and the heights of tension make one feel almost claustrophobic when reading. I absolutely loved this collection, and am so looking forward to reading more of Jackson’s work soon.
Four Russian Short Stories by Gazdanov and Others **** (#21)
Each of the four authors collected together in the twenty-first Penguin Modern, Four Russian Short Stories, were exiles of Revolutionary Russia. Galina Kuznetsova, Yury Felsen, Nina Berberova, and Gaito Gazdanov each ‘explore deaths in a world in which old certainties have crumbled’ in ‘Kunak’ (1930), ‘A Miracle’ (1934), ‘The Murder of Valkovsky’ (1934), and ‘Requiem’ (1960) respectively.
I was very excited to get to this volume, as I adore Russian literature, and had not read anything by any of these authors before. The content of these tales is varied and far-reaching, as one might expect; the first is about a horse, the second about hospital patients and addiction, the third deals with a married woman’s infatuation with another man, and the fourth, which takes place in wartime Paris, focuses upon the emergence of the black market and artwork. Four Russian Short Stories is fascinating to read, and a real treat for fans of Eastern European literature.