Recently launched, Fum D’Estampa Press is a small publisher dedicated to introducing Catalonian literature to English-speaking readers. A little niche you might think but if Jordi Llavina’s London Under Snow is anything to go by, worth seeking out. I was attracted to Llavina’s collection partly thanks to enjoying a short story roll after reading Dierdre Shanahan’s Carrying Fire and Water then Kevin Barry’s That Old Country Music, and partly because I thought it might be a chance for a literary visit to Spain given there was little chance of actually going there this year. London Under Snow comprises six winter stories, none of them bearing that title, each lengthy enough to deserve a synopsis of its own.
Hand & Racquet Jordi, who meticulously replicates his weekends, is asked by his best friend to visit a London hatter so that they can inspect the stain on his cashmere cap. Once installed in his Paddington hotel an unfortunate incident puts his mission at risk but it seems that his friend had something other than hat restoration in mind for him.
My Andalusian Cousin sees the death of the narrator’s cousin summoning a vivid memory of a Christmas spent together, one of only two occasions they met, and the realisation of how little his cousin meant to him but that the reverse may not have been the case.
We Too Are Expecting is a sad, almost fable like story of a woman anxiously looking out for the forecast snow just before Christmas, sitting on sofa knitting her annual scarf for her daughter and whispering stories for her ears alone.
San Diego, For the Record sees a man open the door to his terrace, about to hang out his washing on a chilly Christmas Eve only to find a vagrant fast asleep. Once treated to the vagrant’s somewhat fantastical story, our narrator takes him in and finds himself believing in something he never thought he would.
A Man Called Amat is about a man convinced that the lone regular diner in his brother’s swanky restaurant is the charismatic teacher responsible for igniting his passion for literature, remembering the day he ignored his teacher’s single prohibition.
The Linden Tree tells the story of out narrator’s love for his young wife’s grandmother who captivated him from the day they met, and the sadness of watching her lose her memory.
Llavina’s stories are all about memory, love and lost youth, often tinged with regret and melancholy. Several are narrated by a writer named Jordi, some with a vein of playful humour running through them although overall the style feels quite formal. Llavina has an eye for the detail of everyday life, capable of describing a clotheshorse and its associated pegs at great length which should be tedious but somehow isn’t at all, summoning up his narrator’s life and memories in carefully shaded word pictures. All the stories are set against a wintery background, often at Christmas. Should you know a short story fan keen to branch out a little, the very smartly turned out London Under Snow might make an original if not traditional stocking filler. You can buy it direct from Fum d’Estampa here.
Fum D’Estampa Press: London/Barcelona 9781916293960 157 pages Hardback