Katherine Mansfield had to be on this list, there are so many short stories of hers I could list as favourites. Mansfield was a firm favourite of my grandmother, who was keen to point out many times that, like me, Mansfield moved from New Zealand to London in her twenties. Now that I’m 34 I hope the comparison ends there. ‘At the Bay’ was the story I initially thought of including, it is the first story in a treasured copy of The Garden Party and Other Stories that my mum gave me, which belonged to her, with her name and the year 1973 written on the title page. I own a handful of short story collections with Katherine Mansfield in them including Persephone’s beautiful The Montana Stories and not one of them has the story I ended up choosing. The thing is, ‘Bliss’ has been rattling around in my brain ever since I read it. Mansfield has captured longing perfectly as well as that first pinprick when one realises a betrayal. It is a sublime story, and like Virginia Woolf, I think Mansfield is the greatest modernist writer.
First published in the English Review, 1918, now in Selected Stories, Oxford World’s Classics, 2002, and other Mansfield collections, including Strange Bliss, 2021 Pushkin Press. Available to read online here