All That Man Is
In this stunningly accomplished work, award-winning author David Szalay explores the terrain of manhood. Inhabited by characters at different stages in their lives, ranging from the teenage years to old age, this virtuoso collection portrays men in utterly real and compelling terms as they grapple with relationships and masculinity. Set in various European cities, the stories are dark and disturbing, some almost surreal, but always with acute psychological insight that renders them fascinating. They deal with pride and greed, jealousy and love, grief and loneliness. Funny and heart-achingly sad, sometimes shocking, because the stories are invariably true to life, this is a collection to be read and savoured. (From McClelland & Stewart)
From the book
It is where the trains from Poland get in and the two young Englishmen are newly arrived from Kraków. They look terrible, these two teenagers, exhausted by the ordeal of the train, and thin and filthy from ten days of Inter Railing. One of them, Simon, stares listlessly at nothing. He is a handsome boy, high-cheekboned, with a solemn, inexpressive, nervous face. The station pub is noisy and smoky at seven in the morning, and he is listening, with disapproval, to the men at the next table — one of them American, it seems, the other German and older, who says, smiling, "You only lost four hundred thousand soldiers. We lost six million."
The American says something which is lost in the din.
"The Russians lost twelve million — we killed six million."
Simon lights a Polish cigarette, sees the word "Spiegelei" on a laminated menu, the money on the table, waiting for the waiter to take it — euros, nice-looking, modern-looking money. He likes the fonts the designers have used, plain, unornamented.
"A million died just in Leningrad. A million!"
People are drinking beer.
Outside, drizzle is starting to dampen the grey environs of the station.
From All That Man Is by David Szalay ©2016. Published by McClelland & Stewart.