‘Who Knows What’s Up in the Attic?’ by Jean Rhys

Rhys was approaching the end of a tumultuous life when she wrote this story. A woman living alone in a remote English town receives a visit from a man she’s only met once before. She wonders how things might have turned out in a different time and place. And so do we: it’s impossible not to think of the author’s early novels and their doomed, wrenching affairs. This time, nothing much happens. The action is all in the opening and sudden closing of the woman’s heart as she contemplates where one last voyage in the dark would surely take her: “The abyss. Despair. All those things.”

First published in Sleep it Off, Lady, André Deutsch, 1976, also in the Collected Short Stories, Penguin Modern Classics, 2017

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