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Tales of Persuasion

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Tales of Persuasion
Philip Hensher

Ten daring stories from ‘a writer who seems capable of anything’ (Guardian), the Booker Prize-shortlisted Philip HensherBackdrops vary in this collection of stories from the author of The Northern Clemency – from turmoil in Sudan following the death of a politician in a plane crash, to southern India where a Soho hedonist starts to envisage the crump and soar of munitions. Each story, regardless of location, reveals a great writer at the peak of his powers.

(#u19c4ad0e-46de-54d5-b07a-a9f76b91dded)

Copyright (#u19c4ad0e-46de-54d5-b07a-a9f76b91dded)

4th Estate

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.4thEstate.co.uk (http://www.4thEstate.co.uk)

This eBook first published in Great Britain by 4th Estate in 2016

Copyright © Philip Hensher 2016

Philip Hensher asserts the right to be identified as the author of this work

Cover: detail from The Bolt, c. 1778 (oil on canvas), Fragonard, Jean-Honoré (1732–1806) © Louvre, Paris, France/Bridgeman Images

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

These stories are works of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in them are the work of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Source ISBN: 9780007459650

Ebook Edition © April 2016 ISBN: 9780007459643

Version: 2016-12-20

Dedication (#u19c4ad0e-46de-54d5-b07a-a9f76b91dded)

To Nicola Barr

Contents

Cover (#ud2213e5d-3d90-5184-9c8f-51d2a82f6c5b)

Title Page (#ubd58a5e4-21ad-5025-82f2-8763a461fbf7)

Copyright (#uecbb069f-fbfe-5331-b92f-d6f77a10b72a)

Dedication (#u14560d4b-42af-54bb-b5e6-83e2d423ee01)

Eduardo (#udcbf41be-0b33-563c-b4ab-9c92360f6ac7)

A Change in the Weather (#ue71d9d90-88a3-51d8-a192-63c667b69e6b)

My Dog Ian (#ue17f6b24-0ff8-5edc-8473-248bff3de719)

The Midsummer Snowball (#litres_trial_promo)

In Time of War (#litres_trial_promo)

Under the Canopy (#litres_trial_promo)

The Day I Saw the Snake (#litres_trial_promo)

The Pierian Spring (#litres_trial_promo)

The Whitsun Snoggings (#litres_trial_promo)

The Painter’s Sons (#litres_trial_promo)

A Lemon Tree (#litres_trial_promo)

Praise for Tales of Persuasion (#litres_trial_promo)

Also by Philip Hensher (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

Eduardo (#u19c4ad0e-46de-54d5-b07a-a9f76b91dded)

(i.m. J.C.)

The trains were simmering under the glowing glass roof. In a moment, one midnight-blue train to the airport would leave, and another would arrive, disgorging and absorbing voyagers. The express to Penzance, beyond the shining metal barriers, began joltlessly to move away, and at the same moment, an express from, perhaps, Penzance drew up at the platform next to it. All this coming and going, as Fitzgerald thought of it. He never went anywhere. He did not even own a car, having no need for one in London. He stood at the bagel concession stand where he had agreed to meet Timothy Storey. Most people arranged to meet at the statue of a bear from a series of children’s books. Fitzgerald had thought there was too much scope for confusion in explaining to a foreigner that they would meet at a bear called Paddington, at a station called Paddington. He had no idea whether the adventures of Paddington Bear would be familiar to someone who had spent all his life living in Kenya. His mind filled with the affecting image of a grass hut, a bowl of meal, a runner approaching across the veld with a single, cellophane-bound library book, Paddington Returns, its boards warped and damp, gripped under his arm.

His name was called. ‘I thought it was you,’ Daniel Bradbury said. Fitzgerald went over to speak to him. Bradbury was a neighbour of his in Clapham; one on the other side of a social divide, since he lived in a new gated community. It was the result of the conversion of an old red-brick board school into loft apartments and even whole vertical houses. No keypad and gate guarded the access to Fitzgerald’s maisonette, and the door was on the street. They were both from over the water; they had met by chance, passing the time of day when they found themselves in the same space, but they might have inhabited different cities. ‘I had to come down to meet Eduardo,’ Bradbury said, with a friendliness that took Fitzgerald by surprise. Bradbury was by no means open and chatty with his neighbour Fitzgerald as a rule. ‘He wasn’t sure about the Circle Line and the Northern Line. He wanted me to come to Heathrow, but I thought that was absurd. I said I would meet him at Paddington, it wasn’t hard. Did I tell you about Eduardo? He was living here last year – I knew him, we met at a dinner party – and then he got deported back to Argentina, his visa ran out, but I’ve invited him back, he’s moving in. It’s all so much easier than it used to be, getting a visa for a partner.’

Fitzgerald agreed with whatever it was Bradbury was explaining. ‘What are you here for?’ Bradbury said. Fitzgerald explained that he was expecting a visitor. It was a young man from Kenya, a sort of au pair who would be living with Fitzgerald and undertaking light household duties in exchange for a low rent for the next three months. ‘You haven’t met Eduardo,’ Bradbury said, turning to a man who had sat down on his suitcases. Fitzgerald had noticed him – of course he had noticed him – but it had not occurred to him that even Bradbury could be with such a man.

Bradbury had a record of seductions and triumphs beyond the imagination – no, beyond merely the ambition – of Fitzgerald. He always had some delicious man in tow, installed in what Bradbury imagined to be the lavish white spaces of the converted loft apartment. But looking at this man, with his simultaneous quality of darkness and glow, with his unaffected grace of leg and jawline, even sprawled over his luggage where he had thrown himself, even tired and unwashed after so long a flight, Fitzgerald wondered at the unfairness of it all. Bradbury was not so very young or good-looking or charming; he was only rather rich, and thin. A man like Eduardo should not be sitting, unremarked, in Paddington Station on a weekday morning. Everything about him and his sulky plump lips implied fame, the red carpet, the shining cliff of flashbulbs, the swimwear shoot with a budget of half a million.

Bradbury went on talking, evidently wanting to show off Eduardo, to talk about him; the days and weeks to come would bring better and more highly placed listeners to the subject, but Fitzgerald was by chance the first to lie in their way, so Bradbury talked. Eduardo made no sign that he understood what was being discussed. In a moment, Fitzgerald said to him, ‘Have you only just arrived?’

‘Only two hours ago,’ Eduardo said, slowly, complainingly. His voice, in the middle register, was sleepy and resonant, with an odd and unspecific rasp to it, as if an ancestor had once smoked too many cigars of provincial manufacture. ‘So long to wait at the visa. We don’t have that in Argentina. You only show your passport and they wave you through.’

‘Well, they wave you through in Argentina if you’ve got an Argentinian passport,’ Bradbury said, laughing a little.

‘Yes, of course I’ve got an Argentinian passport,’ Eduardo said. ‘And I’m so hungry I could eat anything.’

‘They never give you enough to eat on planes, do they?’ Fitzgerald said.

‘I don’t eat on planes,’ Eduardo said seriously. ‘If you eat food in a plane, it swells up in your stomach, you get fat, your stomach it swells, even it can explode and kill you. Everyone knows that.’

‘Someone’s been having a joke with you,’ Bradbury said. ‘I don’t think that’s really true.’

‘It’s true. It was the steward in an airline, he told me that.’

For some moments, a fat white girl with a bright red face had been standing by them, trying to attract their attention. ‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘Are you Mr Edmund Fitzgerald?’

Fitzgerald looked at her, up and down, at the brownish stain running vertically down her side – rust? Ketchup? – from gypsyish blouse to dirndlish skirt, both unusually fashioned in some undefinable way. He looked at her woven plastic square holdall and plastic rucksack. Bradbury and Eduardo were turning away. ‘Yes?’ Fitzgerald said.

‘Timothy Storey,’ the girl said.

‘Yes?’ Fitzgerald said, bewildered.

‘No,’ the girl said. ‘I’m Timothy Storey. Did you think I was a boy? People have thought that before. Because of my name. My parents called me Timothy after my little brother, he died when he was only three months old and my dad said he’d name the next one Timothy to keep his memory alive.’
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