The Sons of IshmaelThe Sons of Ishmael
by George Berguño

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Ex Occidente Press, 2010; sewn hardcover, limited to only 150 numbered copies, 124 pp. with dust jacket, end papers and a full-color frontispiece.

According to the Book of Genesis, Ishmael was Abraham's first son by Hagar, a handmaiden of Abraham's first wife, Sarah. After Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she commanded Abraham to banish Hagar from their home. Taking her son Ishmael with her, Hagar journeyed towards Egypt, but lost her way in the wilderness. When she ran out of water, she placed Ishmael under a tree and gave a heart-wrenching cry.

All of the characters in George Berguño's first collection of short stories are spiritual sons and daughters of Ishmael. They are strangers and outcasts; beguiled and despised by a world that had once been their home. The stories vary greatly in their settings. From pre-Viking Norway to nineteenth century Chile; from the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Hitler's Germany; from a timeless town in the New World to contemporary Britain – these stories are remarkable for their unpredictable use of the strange and their subtle exploration of the supernatural. The overall effect of the stories is a vision of the world where chance plays havoc with history; where the living are fatefully intertwined with the dead, and where human desires clash with forces unknown.

The author once said to the poet James Greene that he wanted 'to do with the supernatural tale what Eric Ambler accomplished with the spy novel.' Indeed, the supernatural element in these stories is noteworthy in the way it raises burning questions about the futility of human action and the spiritual impoverishment of our modern world. Another astonishing feature of the stories is the way the author has turned his back on contemporary literature, and sought inspiration from writers of another era. On the pages of this book one can read the influence of European writers of the past, such as Joseph Roth and Leo Perutz. But most surprising of all is his candid appropriation of the narrative methods of medieval writers, such as the anonymous creator of Njal's Saga and that shy and sensitive writer known as the Lady Sarashina.

After the death of his grandfather, a young man defies time and the Nazis so as to share a glass of wine with a long lost friend. A disillusioned middle-aged man learns to love a woman who is neither dead nor alive. A woman who lusts for her stepson accidentally transforms him into a bear and then commands her servants to hunt him down. As the Germans lay siege to Leningrad an intelligence officer longs for a world that he helped destroy. A travelling youth's brief encounter with a vanishing woman brings a startling revelation on the day he dies. These are some of the wandering souls that can be found within this deeply fragile and nostalgic collection of short stories; a book which hankers after the lost world of friendship.

An exceptional and most exquisite debut collection which will appeal to all friends of Leo Perutz, Gustav Meyrink, Ernst Jünger, Joseph Roth, Alexander Lernet-Holenia and the other great forgotten masters of the world we have lost.

George Berguño was born in Princeton, New Jersey; and grew up in Virginia. He has lived and worked in many countries, including Chile, France, England, Austria and Russia. At present, he is Associate Professor of Psychology at Richmond, the American International University in London. He has published extensively in a wide variety of forms, from academic articles on psychology and philosophy to short stories, narrative nonfiction and personal essays.

Contents
  • Introduction
  • Night Sea Journey to Turku
  • Into the Atacama 1899
  • The Devil Only Visits
  • Colonel Redl's Knife Sheath
  • Bodvar's Vengeance
  • The Possessed
  • Orkney Crossing
  • Meyrink's Gambit
  • Doña Ariana's Glass Foot
  • A Master Class with Joseph Roth
  • Notes on the Stories

Click here to download the first pages of the book.

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