In the eleven years we’ve been running the Bath Short Story Award, we’ve been treated to over 12,000 stories on a wide range of themes and genres, presented in a variety of styles. Our anthologies have showcased some 210 of those wonderful stories, many of which have induced tears of sadness, recognition and laughter. But in all the years I’ve been part of the BSSA reading team I can’t remember coming across an overtly political story, say, one just about Brexit, party political shenanigans, or the reality of a protest march.
Of course, stories that deal with topics such as war, refugees, pandemics, homelessness, crime and the climate, for example, will naturally be political in the broad sense and will probably be richer and more textured for it, but one specifically pinning its colours to a ‘party political’ or an issue-specific mast?
Perhaps, there’s a dearth of such stories? And then you come across ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th, 1983’ by the late Hilary Mantel. It was the title story in Mantel’s second collection, published in 2014; she has been more highly acclaimed for her long historical narratives but the collection, as a whole, bears her trademark style of framing moments in disquieting prose. In 2015 it was selected for the BBC National Short Story Award and generated a huge amount of publicity, with the Daily Mail calling it ‘warped’ and ‘a distasteful fantasy.’ The subject matter was certainly shocking as the highly divisive former Prime Minister had only been dead for a year when the story was first published. Continue reading