Chess prodigy Sophie Peshka inherited her love of the game from her grandmaster father. But now that he has been imprisoned in the dungeons of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg by powerful Empress Catherine the Great, Sophie must use all her strategic skill and cunning to help him escape. Part of Sophie’s plan involves an incredible chess-playing automaton called the Clockwork Queen, but will the Queen be able to outwit the Empress in a game where the stakes are a matter of life and death?
The first award that recognises long-standing creativity and achievement in writing short stories has been presented to William Trevor.
Trevor was unable to attend the presentation in person but said, “This is an award for what I do best, which is to write short stories. I also write novels but short stories are what I love and have always loved. I’m hugely honoured. It does mean a great deal to me. It has come from the right source. If I were to associate myself forever with the short story, this is the way I would like to do it.”
Diana Reich (seen above), the Award Administrator, who recently visited Trevor at his Devon home to record an interview that was played to the audience at the award event, says, “William Trevor is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary practitioners of the art of the short story in the English Language, a master exponent of the tragedy of manners. He has been a lodestar for generations of short story writers, both national and international, who have followed him. He was the unanimous choice as the first recipient of the new Award. “
Alison MacLeod, Professor of Contemporary Fiction, University of Chichester says: “It is a huge honour to be able to celebrate nearly fifty years of short fiction from a writer who describes himself as “a short-story writer who happens to write novels.” William Trevor is, without doubt, one of our most extraordinary writers. His vision of the lives of others is as sharp as it is compassionate; as sensitive as it is wry. How lucky we are.”
Dr Sarah Gilroy, Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Chichester says: “We are delighted to build upon our long-standing partnership with Charleston and Small Wonder Festival by creating this literary award celebrating the vibrant discipline of short story writing.”
William Trevor’s long time editor at Penguin, Tony Lacey, says: “In recent years, William Trevor has alternated publishing collections of short stories with full-length novels. As a novelist his subject is sometimes regarded as the fate of the Irish Protestants in the country during the War of Independence and the Civil War, and the Irish state that followed, and that is indeed a potent theme in some of his most famous books: The Story of Lucy Gault and The Silence in the Garden, for example. But these are not Big House novels, with the drama – or melodrama – that that phrase implies. They are understated and elegiac, concerned with character as much as plot. In this sense they reflect his short stories, a genre which Trevor has championed for many years: his Collected Stories, published in two volumes in 2009, amount to almost 2000 pages. There can be no living writer who has dedicated himself to the genre with such devotion over such a long writing life. The stories are set in Ireland and America, England and Italy, in cities and small towns, but wherever they are set they exhibit a particularly deep sympathy for the downcast, the downtrodden and the downhearted. One thinks of the younger son left behind to run the farm after his siblings have left for richer lives abroad; or the husband, whose wife is suffering from dementia, sitting in their favourite restaurant wondering why a couple are wasting their time bickering; or the old priest wrongly accused of abuse.
Many of these stories are so perfect that they challenge analysis or criticism. They seem to come perfectly formed. And, perhaps the true test of a great short story, it seems as though they could only exist in that form: they’re not fragments of a novel, buds that might burgeon into something else, but perfect works of art in their own right.”
Lacey conceded (listen to the audioclip) that in Trevor’s case he had not really been an editor at all. Trevor would deliver a perfect manuscript which he would be able to pass on straight to production.
The recipient of the Award was selected by a panel of experts in the short story genre:
- Patrick Cotter: Director of the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award
- Cathy Galvin: Founder of the Sunday Times/EFG Short Story Award
- Alison MacLeod: Professor of Contemporary Fiction, University of Chichester
- Ra Page: Publisher, Comma Press
- Diana Reich: Artistic Director Small Wonder Short Story Festival
- Di Speirs: Editor, Readings, BBCR4
I recommend this Guardian interview from 4 years ago.
The Collected Short Stories of William Trevor are available in a 2000-page, two-volume edition from Penguin.
Click the image above.