‘The Sad Tale of the Sconce’ by Camilla Grudova

The atmosphere, characters, humour and aesthetic of each story in Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet are so consistent that the collection could almost be read as a jumbled novel occurring in some weird universe where women unstitch themselves and mate with sewing machines and keep tuber-like babies in the fridge. Short form allows not only the writer but the reader, too, breathing space which perhaps wouldn’t be possible in a novel, and sometimes we need a breather – these stories are pretty intense. I love the wit and imagination they display – the world they describe is characterised by a craziness and an exuberance worthy of Kafka and ‘The Sad Tale of the Sconce’ is possibly the most beautifully exuberant of them all. 

First published in Eleven Eleven Journal, 2016 and collected in The Doll’s Alphabet, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2019

‘Agata’s Machine’ by Camilla Grudova

Transgressive, unboundaried female sexuality colours and textures everything about this story, so it feels like a kind of second cousin, though decades removed, to The Doll. It also recalls that horrible D H Lawrence story ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ so strongly that I wouldn’t be surprised if Grudova said this was a modern retelling, or more likely, a rebuff. It comes from a superb, dense collection published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, The Doll’s Alphabet, which name I take as further proof of du Maurier’s ghost looking over Grudova’s shoulder.

First published online in The White Review here. Collected in The Doll’s Alphabet, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017