In the face of some stiff competition, I enjoyed the most profound skiving of my working life whilst working at the library of the University of Birmingham. It was there, browsing an archive of The London Magazine, that I uncovered a story by Alain Robbe-Grillet, a practitioner of the ‘theory of pure surface.’ I found La Plage mesmeric, its circular anti-poetry utterly compelling. It had a profound effect on my own writing too: for months I aped Robbe-Grillet’s austere prose, eschewing all colour and movement and obvious depth in favour of the matter-of-fact, an approach that very nearly left my career as cold as the North Sea.
First published in French in Instantanés, 1962. First published in English in The London Magazine. Collected in Parallel Text: French Short Stories 1, Penguin, 1966. Read it online here