The Independent Foreign Fiction Award: Every move she makes

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The Independent Culture
The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for August/September is First Grey, Then White, Then Blue by Margriet de Moor (Picador, pounds 5.99), translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent. It is the second book on to the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced in June 1995. The first book on the shortlist was Shusaku Endo's Deep River (Peter Owen), translated by Van C Gessel. The judges this month were Jonathan Keates, Michele Roberts and Robert Winder.

Heat, no sign of it cooling off, he wondered where the thunderstorm had got to . . . Glass in hand, he looks unobtrusively at Magda. Platinum blond, almost green in the artificial light, rounded ankles and wrists, until recently he saw her as very ordinary. Now he is interested in every movement she makes. While she sits talking to Nellie, she rocks her foot. She is wearing flip-flops, and the toenails of her sturdy feet are painted bright red. Magda is the only woman with whom I have been unfaithful to Nellie.

Of course they are only moments, smouldering, scarcely conscious, when her tenderness appals me. How on earth did I come to give her this monopoly? I take advantage of her love as much as I can and she, with her generous nature, does not make it too difficult for me. But how am I to protect myself against her kimono on a hook in the bathroom] From the smell of sunflowers in the wardrobe] . . . Why does it never occur to her to thumb through my diary, or search my inside pockets? After a party she persuades me to give a lift home to a girlfriend of hers who is all alone. How can I pay her back for what she does: as I hold open the street door for the lady, I see her out of the corner of my eye bending down to clear the fridge, her tight dress is starting to inch upwards in a familiar way, she knows damned well that I'll be back in no time.

In the distance a church clock chimed. Then there was a moment's deathly hush. He looked at Magda, who was staring innocently at the tops of the trees along the Oude Zeestraat. Since the day when she had found an original way of lifting the dead weight of silence between them, he has had a different view of himself.

(Photograph omitted)

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