Original, cutting-edge fiction from maverick author Joseph Smith.
A flowing album of thirteen short stories, each standing alone as powerful pieces of prose, but also thirteen parts of a greater whole: interconnected, weaving viciously around the same themes, through one voice and effortlessly into another.
A young man goes to war with his hopes high; another goes to the pub and comes across an old enemy; an award-winning photographer oversteps the mark; a fundamentalist has problems in paradise; a crocodile contemplates his love/hate relationship with the noble gnu; a pianist struggles with Bach; a priest watches with pleasure as another man dies before him...
A work fierce in its directness and purpose, beautifully written, laced with playful cruelty, originality - and ultimately the possibility of compassion.
When they are finished, he is just a bloody stump sprouting from the ground.
This blood is bright red against the dark earth and what remains of his dark skin. I take a clutch of frames where the blood shows gaudily in the sunlight, an orange hint of unreality to it as if a scene from early Technicolor, then I move so the colours are hidden, and instead what is visible is not what leaks, but the slumped bust of his profile: a silhouette of head and shoulders that has many possibilities. I work quickly to capture these, kneeling, squatting, stepping sideways to change the casting of shade, and I do this with a slight excitement: the same excitement that I always have when working near violence, but augmented by the rarer knowledge that the product will be both very good and sought after...
When they brought him down I would have sensed it if my eyes were shut, because the people were suddenly made quiet as if flattened, not by an order but by the sight of him half-struggling against the two that held his arms, his steps laboured with reluctance so that he bobbed up and down between them; this the sight before the sound of his crying reached us, and we realised that he was begging those who held his arms, that he did not want to fight too much for fear of offending them further. There was no obstruction to my lens in seeing this, the people around me kept away so that I had clear pathways, the children even running with fear if the black eye of the device seemed near enough to encompass them.
His begging continued as they lowered him into the hole, a constant flurry of a language I could never master – and why should I because I do not deal in sound but image – and as he begged and implored but did not struggle I photographed him; when the earth had risen up to his chest and he was completely pinned within it, I had already made a complete circuit, him not seeing me move around him, the fact that I was completely invisible as I moved and squatted and clicked a further indication that truly, he only faced his own death.
I heard Hanif’s voice: an echo of a sudden guttural command from one of the men with cloth around his head and face, probably an order for me to get back.
‘They’re going to start,’ he said...
THIS IS THE EDUCATED CLASSES TALKING
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'...I cannot help this racism, as that is what it surely is, because it wells up in me and springs to my lips involuntarily: mutterings I make through clenched teeth, surrounded by the Polish incomprehension of bus queues, or towards unruly Somali children in a shop that they are near to vandalising...'
Provocative and chillingly insightful, a story of modern urban tensions extracted from the book FINALLY MY AMBULANCE