‘The House Of The Famous Poet’ by Muriel Spark

The House Of The Famous Poet by Muriel Spark, 1966

The magic trick:

Using an element that hints at the surreal and supernatural to lower the emotional boom

Set in 1944 and published in 1966, this story has the sheen of nostalgia only made possible by the intervening 22 years. And it’s lovely as such.

Things don’t truly take a melancholy turn until the soldier reappears at the end selling an abstract funeral. It’s an odd bit of magic realism. Odd because, well, it’s an odd concept. But also because it never pushes the story all the way into the realm of fantasy. We remain very much in 1944 England. It’s just that suddenly we have a kind of supernatural element in the story that adds nostalgia, a touch of the macabre, and a whole ton of sadness. And that’s quite a trick on Spark’s part.

The selection:

The train pulled up. The soldier leaped down and waved. As the train started again, I unpacked my abstract funeral and looked at it for a few moments.

“To hell with the idea,” I said. “It’s a real funeral I want.”

“All in good time,” said a voice from the corridor.

You again,” I said. It was the soldier.

“No,” he said. “I got off at the last station. I’m only a notion of myself.”

“Look here,” I said, “would you be offended if I threw all this away?”

“Of course not,” said the solider. “You can’t offend a notion.”

“I want a real funeral,” I explained. “One of my own.”

“That’s right,” said the soldier.

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s