Tea at the Midland
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**WINNER of the 2013 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award**
. Read more in The Guardian here
**WINNER of the BBC National Short Story Prize**
'The excellence of the collection is fractal: the whole book is excellent, and every story is excellent, and every paragraph is excellent, and every sentence is excellent. And, unlike some literary fiction, it's effortless to read.'
- The Independent on Sunday
‘Perhaps the finest of contemporary writers in this form.’ – The Reader
To the woman watching they looked like grace itself, the heart and soul of which is freedom. It pleased her particularly that they were attached by invisible strings to colourful curves of rapidly moving air. How clean and clever that was! You throw up something like a handkerchief, you tether it and by its headlong wish to fly away, you are towed along...
Like the kite-surfers in this opening scene, the characters in David Constantine’s fourth collection are often delicately caught in moments of defiance. Disregarding their age, their family, or the prevailing political winds, they show us a way of marking out a space for resistance and taking an honest delight in it. Witness Alphonse – having broken out of an old people’s home, changed his name, and fled the country – now pedalling down the length of the Rhône, despite knowing he has barely six months to live. Or the clergyman who chooses to spend Christmas Eve – and the last few hours in his job – in a frozen, derelict school, dancing a wild jig with a vagrant called Goat.
Key to these characters’ defiance is the power of fiction, the act of holding real life at arm’s length and simply telling a story – be it of the future they might claim for themselves, or the imagined lives of others. Like them, Constantine’s bewitching, finely-wrought stories give us permission to escape, they allow us to side-step the inexorable traffic of our lives, and beseech us to take possession of the moment.
About the Author:
Born in Salford in 1944, David Constantine worked for thirty years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published several volumes of poetry, most recently, Nine Fathom Deep (2009). He is a translator of Hölderlin, Brecht, Goethe, Kleist, Michaux and Jaccottet. In 2003 his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Lighter than Air won the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. His translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I was published by Penguin in 2005; Part II in April 2009. He is also author of one novel, Davies, and Fields of Fire: A Life of Sir William Hamilton. His three short story collections are Back at the Spike, the highly acclaimed Under the Dam (Comma, 2005), and The Shieling (Comma, 2009), which was shortlisted for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Constantine’s story ‘Tea at the Midland’ won the BBC National Short Story Award 2010. He lives in Oxford, where he edits Modern Poetry in Translation with his wife Helen.
SINGLE STORIES NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE
The following are now available to read as single stories through Kindle:
Tea at the Midland
by David Constantine
More Praise for Tea at the Midland
**Selected as one of the BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2012 by the TLS and the London Evening Standard**
**Long-listed for the 2013 Edge Hill Short Story Prize**
Tea at the Midland was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra in a five-day series, from Monday 14th January until Friday 18th January 2013. Listen again to all the stories being read by various actors here
Selected as Editors' Choice in Cerise Press
'This is a superb collection of stories: Constantine's writing is rare today, unafraid to be rich and allusive and unashamedly moving.'
- The Independent
'Masterful...pregnant with fluctuating interpretations and concealed motives.'
- The Guardian
'A. S. Byatt has described reading a previous collection of Constantine's short fiction as akin to experiencing ''a series of short shocks of (agreeably envious) pleasure''. Tea at the Midland shows the author to be on equally sparkling form again.'
- The TLS
'Peculiarity is wrapped into the heart of David Constantine’s collection; in its characters and their fragile lives.'
- The Financial Times
'Restrained, delicate, a small, perfectly shaped moment in which nothing monumental seems to happen – only it does, really. Stylistically, it is elegant, nothing is superfluous.'
- The Scotsman
- The Irish Times
'An exacting wordsmith, David Constantine is always in complete control of his material, every sentence exquisitely wrought to convey exactly the mood he intends.'
- The Good Book Guide
'Touched at times with humour and infused with compassion, these complex, nuanced stories speak repeatedly of lives lived in some form of exile, yet manage to keep in play the possibility that exile is not, contrary to appearances, our true condition.'
- New Welsh Review
'Constantine's stories are not pre-prepared in any sense; he starts anew every time. Inspired by that image or specific instance, his work has a feeling of wholeness and growth. Natural phenomena are deeply expressive.'
- The Irish Post
'Constantine is not a writer motivated by plot. His stories centre on moments, conversations, meetings that feel like small details picked out from a larger tapestry. His characters are strange and vividly drawn.'
- Litro Magazine
'Constantine is, quite clearly, a master draughtsman at work, and the short story is his ideal canvas.'
- The Short Review
'Many people are damaged or destroyed but some fight back. Sometimes a respectable clergyman lets his hair down. Sometimes a lonely man reaches out to a sympathetic woman...'
- The Oxford Times
'A masterful collection of short stories. Constantine’s uncanny portrayal of characters as both familiar and enigmatic beings makes for an enthralling read, and his manipulation of words and knack for beautiful phraseology are captivating throughout.'
- The Literateur
'Rich in depth and detail.'
Watch David read 'Mr Carlton' from the collection at The Word Factory at The Society Club in Soho here
and listen to his Q&A with host, former journalist and founder of the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, Cathy Galvin here
Also available from this author:
Under the Dam
by David Constantine
'Every sentence is both unpredictable and exactly what it should be. Reading them is a series of short shocks of (agreeably envious) pleasure...'
– AS Byatt, Book of the Week, The Guardian
'Flawless but unsettling'
- Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year 2005, The Independent
'Constantine is writing for his life. Every sentence and paragraph is shaped, tense with meaning and unobtrusively beautiful, his images of the natural world burning their way into the reader’s mind...'
- Maggie Gee, The Times
by David Constantine
*Shortlisted for the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award
The much anticipated follow-up to Constantine's highly acclaimed Under The Dam
'So good I'll be surprised if there's a better collection this year...'
– The Independent
, 2 Sep 09.
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