Click to enlarge


Leyburn, UK; Tartarus Press; 2002. Fine in Fine dj. 1st edition hardcover. For William Sansom, every aspect of the commonplace could be seen from a changed and utterly strange perspective. The Surrealists had got it right, . . . that is how the world is. People and objects interested him equally, and in his work their qualities are often intermingled, so that the inanimate has a sinister sentience and the individual seems transfixed by a nightmarish and inescapable fate. So Mark Valentine introduces us to the twenty-five stories of Various Temptations, representing the best of William Sansoms fantastic and macabre short fiction. William Sansom enjoyed a brief period of acclaim in the 1940s and 50s, when the fresh originality of his stories and his supple, experimental style earned him a place in the leading British literary periodicals. William Sansoms writing has been compared with that of Franz Kafka: he was able to transform the intensity of his wartime firefighting experiences in the London Blitz into a tense, peculiarly charged and intimate literature where the everyday becomes symbolic and is imbued with sinister portent. Yet there is also a life-affirming energy and diversity in Sansoms work. The celebrated story Fireman Flower unfolds the feverish, over-heated mental state of the fireman protagonist in an unusually expressive way. In The Equilibriad a man wakes to find himself aslant, his body able only to move at an angle to the rest of the world. The Long Sheet enjoys the mythic quality of an Eastern morality fable, A Saving Grace is an exquisitely poetic, calmly understated ghost story, and in the macabre The Little Room a nun awaits her horrifyingly Gothic fate. A writer who constantly surprises and stimulates our own imaginings, William Sansom gave the macabre story an avant-garde sophistication and a sharper edge. Various Temptations is a sewn hardback book of 350+xv pages. Limited to 350 copies.