Sweeping from Nazi Germany in 1939 to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, Stephen Henighan's A Grave in the Air is a masterful sequence of stories. In these tales, dominated by Central and Eastern European themes, readers are transported across borders and into the lives of characters who have something serious at stake, people enmeshed in acts of destruction, and people redeemed through honour and grace. These narratives bear Henighan's cosmopolitan stamp, but they do not take place in a sanitized global village. There are no stereotypes on which to hang a plot, no filtered sense of the human condition. There are stories of betrayal, such as "Beyond Bliss", where a young British woman uses sex, duplicity and her connections to an Eastern European exile to become a partner in a Canadian literary press; luminous studies of introspection and character, such as "Freedom Square", in which a Romanian photographer's desire to escape her mother country yields to surrender to it; and ironic stories of historical displacement, such as "A Sense of Time", in which an erotic memory takes life for a Canadian expatriate in England, and "Duty Calls", where a Hungarian Montrealer experiencing divorce becomes the unsuspecting catalyst for another couple's commitment.
The two long stories, which bracket the collection, summarize its themes. In the opening story, a British businessman relies on the sporting spirit to try to avert the onset of the Second World War; in the title story, a weary foreign correspondent, shaken by his encounter with a band's disturbing groupie, must face his own truth about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
Whether moving readers to reflection or providing engaging entertainment, Henighan's prose is sharp and clean. Once again, he is as instructive in his understanding of peoples and cultures as he is instinctive in taking us inside the worlds that shape them.
About the author
Stephen Henighan is the author of four books of fiction, including the novel The Places Where Names Vanish (Thistledown 1998) and the short story collection North of Tourism (Cormorant 1999), which was selected as a `What's New What's Hot` title by chapters.indigo.ca. His short fiction has been published in more than thirty journals and anthologies in Canada, Great Britain and the United States, and has been taught in university courses in Canada, the U.S. and France.
Henighan's literary journalism has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, the Globe and Mail, the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and many other publications. He has published scholarly articles on literature in major international journals such as The Modern Language Review, Comparative Literature Studies and the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies.
Lecturer in Spanish at University College, Oxford and Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, Stephen Henighan has also taught English as a Second Language in Colombia and Moldova, and Creative Writing at Concordia University, the Maritime Writers` Workshop and the University of Guelph. He currently teaches Spanish-American literature and culture in the School of Languages and Literatures at the University of Guelph.
Other titles by Stephen Henighan
The World of After
Human and Environmental Justice in Guatemala
Writers on Writing in Canada
Blue River and Red Earth
Mr. Singh Among the Fugitives
The Path of the Jaguar
Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret
Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez Writing Nicaragua, 1940-2012
Green Reef, A
The Impact of Climate Change