Life and death, truth and fiction

Staying In

Bríd Conroy


It’s my birthday (the second in lockdown). I sit down with a box of chocolates just dropped in by our gorgeous neighbours and take out my copy of ‘Corpsing’, by Sophie White. Not an obvious choice for the day that is in it, I agree, yet I read with vigour, intrigue. I even read with envy at White’s ability to express many thoughts I myself have had in relation to dying and death. And I am strangely uplifted on this auspicious day.
‘Corpsing’ is a work of literary nonfiction, published in March of this year by Tramp Press. Its prose use literary techniques normally adopted in poetry and fiction, to write about real life events. This style frees up White to tell her story and true life experiences in a way that liberates her from them, and us too in the reading.
We go on a journey with her through her grief when her father dies and the years before when he has premature Alzheimer’s. “Perhaps because of the unruly atoms, during his dying days I believe I have caught some of his death, I believe myself to be dying in time with him.”
We go with her through mental illness and how she wonders if ‘being human is a kind of madness’. We go on adventures with her as she recovers from her illness, living in a van in the French Alps.
While I’m on the subject, I later got to read ‘A Perfect Cemetery’, a short story collection Frederico Falco, published by Charco Press based in Edinburgh, which specialises in translating contemporary Latin American literature and bringing it to new readers in the English-speaking world. The publisher’s aim is to act as a cultural and linguistic bridge enabling us to access a brand new world of fiction, and ‘A Perfect Cemetery’ does exactly that.
Author Falco presents us with five short stories that fit together completely yet are different. We experience the landscape of Argentina, the quirkiness of his characters and the exploration of death as a feature of the lives he invites us to visit on. I am so reminded of Ireland in this telling; different land, different language, different stories but the same surviving, the same connections to place and people, our island isolation to their continental vastness.
The stories are translated by Jennifer Croft, and we are further treated to a whole other depth of authenticity in the translation of the stories. Her work creates the ‘cultural bridge’ Charco Press founders Carolina Orloff and Samuel McDowell had been seeking. “Falco wrote the screenplay, but I was the director of these sweeping films, just as you have been – as every reader will be. I hear the characters as I must, informed by all the places I have lived….”
And like all great movies, I didn’t want the stories to end. I wanted to know more, but also I didn’t. I was left with a sense of having been slightly stunned into a rethinking of the world. Which bits of the world, I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t really matter somehow.

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.