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Territory of Uncertainty: A collection of short stories and profiles I S. M. Owens (2009) Short stories UK £6.99 




About this book

‘Territory of Uncertainty’ is a collection of longer and shorter stories, and a series of ‘Unreliable Country Profiles’. The stories are written in the first person and this may give the impression that they are autobiographical but they are not. Undeniably they each contain elements of truth.

The opening story, ‘Asansol’, may appear disconcertingly odd. Mr. A is a complex composite character, but he is my starting point, a person who really did come into my railway compartment in India and said only one word – Asansol. This was a place I’d never heard of, and I’ve never been there, though I must have passed through it on the train.

The various introductions provide me with an opportunity outside the context of the stories, but their inclusion is an essential part of the book – like short worthy detours on a long enjoyable journey.

The country profiles are profiles of countries as I see them – hence the inclusion of the word unreliable in the title. I have used what I know of their history and geography, to create a three dimensional picture postcard and to reveal them slowly. With some of them, and I know this is impossible, I describe them from some point in the future – it’s only a dream.

I returned to the friendliest of all cities, in the typhoon season, to do the final edit of this book. The Professor, surrounded by a sea of books, papers and magazines, told me that he thought the first chapter of ‘Asansol’ was one of the best things he’d ever read; the Architect told me that he couldn’t make head nor tail of it.

I’ve been travelling all my life, I started on buses and trains and then on ships and planes, it was an enthusiastic aspiration and now it is only a memory, and an unreliable one at that. Still, before it’s too late, I’d like to introduce you to some of the people and places I got to know along the way – and reassure you that it is still possible to find the most precious of things in the unlikeliest of places.


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