Congratulations to New Zealand poet and writer C K Stead, who was announced as the winner of the Sunday Times short story award on Sunday. It is richly deserved, and will also give some comfort to the older generation of writers - Karl Stead is 77. Five years ago he suffered a severe stroke and believed that he would never be able to write again, but he did and is now almost as prolific as ever.
His story was described as ‘haunting and beautifully crafted’. It is set in Croatia and tells the story of a young writer who criticises a much older one in print, damaging both their reputations. Hanif Kureishi - one of the judges - said that it was ‘a wry, perceptive look at rivalry and love. It was a pleasure to read, and is a fine example of how a short story should be constructed and written.’
Anyone who would like to hear an extract, beautifully read, just follow this link.
I once met Karl Stead at a literary event we were both involved in. He is one of the leading Mansfield scholars - someone I needed to talk to when working on the biography. Finding myself next to him at the buffet table, I managed to pluck up the courage to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his novel on Katherine Mansfield, hoping that this might be the conversation opener I needed. But he answered curtly, ‘I’ve never written a novel about Katherine Mansfield’, leaving me red-faced with embarrassment and doubt. Had I spoken to the wrong man? Had he ever, in fact, written a novel about KM? Or was it just a figment of my imagination? I couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say, just stammered apologies and went to stare at the sandwiches. When I got home I went straight to my bookshelves. There it was, the novel ‘Mansfield’, by C.K. Stead. I re-read a few pages and yes, it was ‘about’ Katherine Mansfield. And the man I had spoken to was definitely Karl Stead. It’s a mystery I’ve never solved. Perhaps he just didn’t want to talk to anyone. It’s one of those embarrassing moments that stay with you for life and make your skin prickle every time you think of them.....