Interpreted by silence

Interpreted by silence[1] My name is Hans X. I was a German interpreter at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. My colleagues and I were the first simultaneous interpreters. Until then, at conferences, each speaker gave his talk in one language, and then the interpreter repeated the talk in a second language. But at Nuremberg the…

Darwin’s dream

(In the following short story Charles Darwin is the famous scientist, author of “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. Professor Florence Cady of the Avian Behavioural Unit at the University of Belfast is a fictional character) After a copious Victorian lunch, Charles Darwin retired to his study at Down House. He…

The Dream laboratory (tales from the free world)

“As I woke I could feel the tentacles of a giant octopus wrapping itself around me. Not content with its caresses, its beak was making for my neck which it wished to bite.” On waking I wrote this dream down emphasizing the sexual attraction between myself and the imagined octopus. When I was taken to…

The questioning of Abraham Ortelius

(Abraham Ortelius was a leading cartographer, map seller, art collector and art dealer in Antwerp in the sixteenth century. He is recorded as dying in 1598 and being buried in the Nobertine abbey in Antwerp. This story combines true facts about his life with an alternative account of his death.) Abraham was a successful man.…

The lost map of Bernard Wapowski

A year after her father died, Sarah Cohen finally got around to sorting through his old suitcases. He had not left her much beyond the flat in which they lived. This old case, when she opened it, contained maps. They were maps of Poland on thick old paper. She read the Latin inscriptions, digging into…

Blindness

On the last day that I could see, I went to the Van Gogh exhibition in Amsterdam. Even though the pre-occupations of every day crowded in upon me, some of the pictures jumped straight into my brain. The picture of his simple bedroom at Arles was one of them. The red blanket crashed through my…

Black and white

Maria ran a lodging house in South London. It was on the South Circular road, half way between Brixton and Dulwich. She called it Dulwich, but no-one in Dulwich would have done so. The road outside the house was a study in greyness, the traffic relentless. Only a year before, Maria’s husband, a successful businessman,…

The girl blushed to the roots of her hair

I was sitting in a train, brain foggy with tiredness. Behind me was a boy, perhaps four years old, with his mother. The boy, I could see through a parting between the seats, but I could not see his mother. He was a confident lad, ready to enjoy the journey. “Have I enough time to…