‘On the Day that E.M. Forster Died’, collected in Byatt’s first volume of short stories, Sugar and Other Stories (1987), epitomises not only the author’s concerns in this book but also the general nature, structure and narrative tone of her short stories in the five collections to date. It has an intrusive, authoritative and omniscient narrator who controls the direction of the story from a clearly articulated position of power, starting with the statement that‘[t]his is a story about writing. It is a story about a writer who believed, among other things, that the time for writing about writing was past’ (129). This opening explicitly separates the narratorial position from the protagonist’s. It features a female protagonist (Mrs Smith) who is both a writer and a wife and mother, whose thoughts and feelings are openly available to the reader, though disclosed through the distanced perspective of the narrator. The most consistent of these concerns is the apparent contradiction of an intense passion for art as an integral part of her life and a mistrust of the claims made for art as a form of salvation from the world. The story has a loosely episodic plot punctuated by reflections on language and plotting by both narrator and protagonist.
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