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Hugh Brody

Hugh Brody was born in 1943, and has taught social anthropology at the Universities of Belfast, Cambridge and Toronto. He has worked with Inuit and Indian organisations, and most recently on Bushman history and land rights in the Southern Kalahari. Non-fiction publications include InishkillaneMaps and Dreams, and the acclaimed The other side of Eden – hunter gatherers, farmers, and the shaping of the world (2000), as well as documentary and feature films.

Short story collections

Means of Escape (Faber, 1991) 

Reviewed by James Murray-White

Interview with Hugh Brody

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Hugh Brody: They were written over a period of about two years, but with a rather furious concentration of work on them in a three month period.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

HB: Not the first ones, but then I realised there could be a set if I did two additional stories.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

HB: The choice was made as I wrote rather than by looking at various stories and wondering which ones might go together. The order seemed to be of central importance, though I always knew which was first and which last. I spent much of the last months on the collection thinking through the sequence.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

HB:  Something that is told and has a magic. Something that reaches out and holds because of the events it offers and follows. Something that offers both the fearful and comforting, though always there is a reassurance that the story exists, is told. I have heard such amazing stories from Inuit and other indigenous peoples, in their homes, around fires, in tents at night. These seemed to be the archetypes. Yet I know that there is a story in so many places, in a multitude of forms.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

HB: Not often. What I write seems to come from within and insist on happening for itself.   

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

HB: I always want to know what happened as you read. How the mind was taken, how it felt to be reading. And I often wonder how the last story does and does not hold the reader. I have some special preoccupation with the effect of that story, the wolf, the couple, and want to know if it managed to be special to reader too. A worry and a hope, I suppose. 

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

HB: Are they? If they are, it is just a joy.

TSR: What are you working on now?

HB: I am working on a new film, about my work over the past ten years in southern Africa, and on writing that is still unclear to me.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

HBDe Maupassant collection; P G Wodehouse's Mulliner stories; John Berger's Once in Europa.