‘The Surrogate’ by Tessa Hadley

As a reader I appreciate it when a writer seems to deliver a secret message, underneath the words of the story, to me, their reader. That’s what I get from Hadley’s tale of sexual fantasy and its outcomes. This story seems above all an account of the act of writing and the act of reading. All the stories I have chosen for this personal anthology could be interpreted as such, I think – in one way or another they all describe the relationship between writer and reader, a relationship which serves as surrogate for the relationship between any fellow humans in the act of making sense of our existence. Hadley may explore this relationship in a very different way to Kafka or Grudova, say, but underneath all these writers’ contortions, the same issues burn below the surface.

First published in The New Yorker, September 2003, and available to read online here, or hear Curtis Sittenfield read it here. Collected in Sunstroke and other stories, Jonathan Cape, 2007

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