The Master of Chaos

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Title: The Master of Chaos

Writer: Pauline Melville

Publishing House: Sandstone Press

Date of Publication: July 1st 2021

Rating: 5 stars

‘’All I wanted to do was hurt him. Death was my way of reviving his love for me, punishing him and finally gaining victory in the contest.’’

In Pauline Melville’s stories, chaos comes in many forms. Addiction, obsession, chimaeras running inside the characters’ minds, tyranny, love, family, war, the need to succeed, the futile effort to prevent tragedy. But within chaos, as we all know, hope can be found, born out of our strength and desire to go on and not let ourselves surrender. From the Caribbean to Russia, from the Czech Republic to Scotland, from Syria to Argentina, from Germany to England, these characters try to become the Masters of Chaos. Whether they succeed or not is up to us to decide.

‘’The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. A melancholy white mist shrouded Le Repentir burial ground. We walked down the avenue of giant royal palms. The tall trees were stricken with some disease that had turned the drooping foliage mangy and yellow. The cemetery was floated, allowing the dead to move about below and change places. Grandfather was lowered into his grave with a splash.’’

The Master of Chaos: A strong start with an atmospheric story of a dead grandfather who believed that gambling manages to retain the balance amidst the chaos of his life, a resourceful granddaughter and a lively (and complex) family, set in Guyana. The ending is phenomenal!

‘’Noel Dunham then decided to pull himself together and tackle the problem methodically. He would write every type of suicide note in every possible style and then go through them all until one striking and inevitable farewell remained.’’

Fable of A Laureate: In a darkly humorous story, a Nobel Laureate decides to commit suicide because of his writer’s block. But he needs to write THE perfect suicide note and it’s far from easy.

Reason Has Its Limits: The powerful story of a young man who becomes the unwilling confidante of a dictator and the strange twists of Fate. With references to Skrekibuku, the book of Terror in Dutch Creole culture and Saint Death of Mexico, this tale becomes a haunting confession of utter corruption, set in Surinam. 

Fable of a God Forgotten: The victim of a vicious attack tries to understand the motives and personality of her attacker. Strangely profound.

‘’That morning, when he went out to the shops, she had been playing the theme tune from the Umbrellas of Cherbourg on the piano, humming to herself with tears in her eyes which she hoped he would notice.’’

The Dostoyevsky House: An elegant satire paying homage to the Russian Short Story, ‘’starring’’ an actor trying to make ends meet in a society that is still trying to find its footing in a world without communism. Set in St Peterburg during a strange summer, with a plethora of cultural references.

Fable of a Missing Word: A brilliant story about a brotherly feud over vocabulary, their wise nephew and the Arawak language, set in an Amerindian village in Guyana.

The Dream of Ocalan: A moving story about friendship and the fight of the brave Kurdish people for identity and independence from the Turkish tyrants.

‘’Of the many invisible cities described by Calvino, there is one remarkable city that is missing. If you approach this city by road you can see the main station on the outskirts. A handful of people loiter on the platform. It is only when you enter the missing city that you understand it consists of nothing but waiting spaces: private waiting rooms, public waiting rooms, foyers, lobbies, ante-rooms, precincts set aside for queuing, courtyards designed for hanging about. The entire city is constructed for the sole purpose of waiting.’’

Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary Discuss Their Suicides: Such a pure, wonderful gem. Two of our most beloved and tragic ladies in Literature discuss love, men, expectations, jealousy and death.

The Dark Photon: What begins as a memoir of students befriending a charismatic teacher soon becomes a testimony of the unthinkable cruelties committed by the dictatorship of Videla in Argentina during the 70s, the Desaparecidos and the escape of monsters to countries that were extremely willing to accept them.

A Fable of Tales Untold: An atmospheric story about the struggle of a Jewish writer as the eras change. Set in beautiful Prague during the Second World War, the Soviet Occupation and the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

‘’How dead are the dead? That’s what we need to know, eh?’’

Let Me Out: A story in which hallucinations walk side-by-side with the ‘’teachings’’ of sculptors, and a man is plagued by visions about marble and bronze statues. Set in Norfolk, Florence, Munich and Bamberg.

Morne Jaloux: Set in Grenada, this is a story rich in political themes but, in my opinion, it was not particularly interesting. It felt dull, dubiously preachy and repetitive.

A Bright Yellow Bag: In my opinion, this one was horrible. Full of swearing, absurdities and a strange feeling that I was supposed to feel sorry for the fate of a deceased member of (presumably) the Red Brigade that terrorized Italy for years. No. I won’t. Ever. I won’t feel sorry for anarchists and terrorists. Sue me.

Singing in the Dark Times: A moving story about the tragedy in Grenfell Tower, homelessness and the strength of the human soul during dark times.

‘’It was November, 1989. There had been skirmishes throughout the city and then a few days later millions of citizens took to the streets, spring tidal flood of citizenry: medical workers in their white coats, printers, drivers, workers from the factories; this huge river of people spilled out from some unidentifiable source and poured through the streets of Prague. A new city became visible that the day before had been unseen. Truckloads of students waving our red, blue and white flags roared through the streets. Holding hands, my wife, son and I joined the jubilant crowds in Wenceslas Square. Under the grey skies we were blinking as if we had just emerged into the light of day.’’

Many thanks to Sandstone Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.