A Little Episode

Earlier this week, Radio 3 broadcast a reading of “A Little Episode”, a short story by Katherine Mansfield. The story was on air between Brahms’s second and third violin sonatas, in the interval of a concert recorded live from Wigmore Hall. This was a peculiarly fitting moment to hear “A Little Episode”, for the story begins as a crowd gathers to attend a concert. The main character, a young and lonely society wife, is a member of the audience; at the interval she goes backstage to find the pianist. Their brief affair is the little episode of the story’s title: an affair as fleeting and elliptical as the short story form itself. That Radio 3 chose to place Morven Christie’s reading of “A Little Episode” during an interval emphasised this blink-and-you-miss-it quality. It also demonstrated what a lot Mansfield can pack into such a short space of time and text: 17 minutes and 2500 words.

“A Little Episode” dates from 1909, making it one of Mansfield’s earliest works. But until last year the story was unknown and unpublished, its manuscript tucked away in the archives of ADAM International Review, the 20th century magazine of the arts edited by Miron Grindea. Mystery surrounds this archive-within-an-archive; Grindea devoted an entire issue of ADAM to Katherine Mansfield (Vol XXXVIII, Numbers 370-375, 1972-3), including unpublished letters, fiction and juvenilia. “A Little Episode” did not appear in the ADAM issue but showed up 40 years later when Chris Mourant, a PhD student at King’s College London, was researching the ADAM archives. He discovered “A Little Episode”, along with three children’s stories and a collection of aphorisms also by Mansfield. The material came to light just in time to be included in a two-volume edition of Mansfield’s collected fiction. Published last October, this is a substantial work aimed at academic readers; monday marked the introduction of “A Little Episode” to a wider audience.

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1 Comment
  1. Judith says

    Dear Hannah I came across your blog by the purest of chances and was surprised and delighted to read this piece. In 1973 I was a UC Berkeley USA undergraduate studying 20th century women’s literature and particularly the works of Katherine Mansfield. I had come to the UK to work / study for a year and was given a personal introduction to ADAM and Miron Grindea. He asked me to help with research and editing on this issue of ADAM, and it was an honour and an extraordinary experience to be able to do so. I own an original copy of this issue of ADAM, now covered in dust somewhere in my home library, but without a doubt I will be looking for it tonight. I eventually moved to the UK where I remain today, ripened by time and experience but no less a lover of KM’s works. Mr Grindea (as I called him) and I kept in contact for several years although I did lose contact in the latter period before his death. What a shame that the mighty and exceptional ADAM review was so little known and thank you for taking me back down this particular memory lane. Please feel free to contact me at judith0777@gmail.com . best wishes Judith

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