Graham Mort’s latest short story collection, Like Fado, is a wonderfully engaging read. The thirteen stories are standalones, but they share thematic and textual traits that bind them into a single whole.
'Fado' is a dance that can be traced back to Portugal of the nineteenth century, but also derives from the Latin term ‘fatum’ – fate, death or a final utterance. Both definitions apply to the stories here. At times, the prose moves with the musicality and rhythms of a dance but there is also a mournful, almost elegiac mood to each piece as the protagonists do their best to overcome various sorts of existential crises.
The photographer in the title story, 'Like Fado,' wanders the Lisbon streets, keen to put his wife’s extra-marital affair out of his mind. He is drawn to the tiny details of everyday life – that is, until he is asked by a local girl to take a picture of her mother’s final hours. 'The old woman,' Mort writes, 'was beautiful in the way that only the very old and the very young can be, her skin exquisitely creased, her irises and pupils dark, merging to the point of invisibility.' In many ways, Mort behaves like his photographer, dipping in and out of the lives of the characters he’s created. His astute eye falls on singular moments in time, then magnifies each one, with denouements masterfully executed. There are no weak entries in this incredible collection, but for this reviewer standouts include the aforementioned 'Like Fado,' 'Shoo,' 'Olivia' and 'Whitehorn' - novella-like in its scope, and a profoundly moving portrait of guilt arising from a childhood mishap.
I was new to Mort’s work before reading this collection, and this has certainly left me wanting to read more.
Paul Taylor-McCartney is a doctoral researcher with Leicester University, following a part-time PhD in Creative Writing. His research interests include dystopian studies, narratology and initial teacher education. His poetry, short fiction and academic articles have appeared in a range of notable UK and international publications including Aesthetica, The Birmingham Journal of Language and Literature, Education in Practice (National Association of Writers in Education), Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine and Dyst: A Literary Journal. He lives and works in Cornwall. You can read more about him here.