The indigenous Gaelic-speaking population of the Hebridean island of Eigg has been for centuries divided between those of immemorial Roman Catholic allegiance and those of the prevailing Protestant conviction, between whom intermarriage was unthinkable. Into this riven community there struggles ashore, in the middle of the Second World War, a creature from a neighbouring isle, which will spell out the ecstatic and cruel fate of two of its teenage lovers.
The deluge of wealth descending upon the fundamentalist desert Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the expropriation of its vast oil reserves in 1973 attracted a surge of Westerners scrambling for contracts to modernize that unrelenting, self-contradictory theocracy. Such a one is the protagonist-narrator of his own destiny unfolded by a patient in an orthopaedic London hospital to the stranger in the next bed, in the 1980s.
In his late eighties, the tragic figure, alone in his disorderly basement in south London, clings to his 12-year-old visitor, a devoted grandson, to be expiated from his tormenting sense of guilt stemming from the old man’s youth which was to be the prelude to a lifetime’s obsession with the planet’s remnant communities of hunter-gatherers.
In his early twenties in 1954 an adventurous young English landowner, recently married, was tempted to seek the location of a source of gold in a region of France’s poorest tropical African colony, in the vicinity of the site chosen for his leper colony by the then globally celebrated humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. The enterprise would come to rip apart the young man’s life.
This story is set in the rambling town of Goma and its vicinity on the shore of the beautiful Lake Kivu in highland eastern Congo, in the 1970s period of unrelenting civil strife between ethnic factions and what passed as national governance from the ex-colony’s remote capital. The last of the white missionaries were still present. On this story Rowan Williams has spoken out: I was tremendously moved.
Long-short stories from around the world
Just to remind you, dear prospective friends – all my long-short stories that have come out in one publication or another since 1990, which I am now inviting you to hear me narrate as audiobooks, drawn upon my own experience and mental exploration during a long life which has taken me to many regions of the world and into close observation and acquaintance with my fellow men, a life lived to the hilt.
Some stories interweave one strand of event or experience with another, or an inner strand with an outer; some borrow a figure from one part of my life to play role with another … such that, in the recalling, I can no longer distinguish what is strict record of actuality from my invention summoned to make a story speak its own truth.