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A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture

A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture

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A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture

44 página
39 minutos
Lançado em:
Sep 9, 2014


These are four short stories by novelist and playwright, Catherine Czerkawska. They might be subtitled 'four love stories' but it's up to the reader to decide who loves what and why.
In the title story, A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture, Ros and Davy, holidaying in Tuscany with their new baby, confront the emotional realities of parenthood and the suddenly threatening new world in which they find themselves. This is a disturbing short story with many levels of meaning.
In The Butterfly Bowl, Debbie inherits a precious and almost magical object, but is faced with an impossible choice. Things will never be the same again.
Breathe is a quirky celebration of an unsung Yorkshire life and an exploration of the power of memory.
The Man in the Moon is a prose poem reflecting on the nature of a love affair remembered and the stories we tell ourselves about relationships.

Czerkawska's writing has been variously described as moving, quietly provocative, lyrical and blisteringly eloquent. It is always readable. If you like even some of these stories, you might enjoy the author's longer fiction.

Lançado em:
Sep 9, 2014

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A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture - Catherine Czerkawska



A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture was published in New Writing Scotland in 2009. An early version of The Butterfly Bowl was published in Cosmopolitan, many years ago, although it’s been extensively rewritten since then.

I’d like to thank everyone who has encouraged me in this, my first venture into Kindle publishing. I was tempted to subtitle these ‘Three Love Stories’ because that’s what they are, but I leave it to you to decide who loves what, and why.


‘Davy. Come and look at this.’

Her husband is loitering in another room, reading descriptions of cruelty. Ros turns her attention back to the  photograph of a real woman, naked, except for the spiked metal contraption which doesn't seem to be troubling her at all. The woman stands there, plump and complacent, hands by her sides.  It's an old photograph, from the 1920s perhaps. She has long hair, a pretty face, a round belly. Ros wonders about the picture. Was it from a serious medical text or, more likely, one of those naughty postcards that gentlemen used to pass around for their private titillation? She remembers reading that most of the girls in those pictures were ruthlessly exploited by the photographers but this woman looks faintly bored if anything.  Ros reads the caption.

‘The chastity belt had very little to do with knights locking away their wives while they went off on Crusades. It was much more about women defending themselves against rape, during times of siege or on dangerous journeys.’

Unlike the other exhibits, at least the chastity belt seems to have had a reasonable purpose. As for the rest – a miscellany of cruelty - how could so much ingenuity be dedicated to such dreadful ends? And why are so many of these things decorated? Why the intricate carving, the brilliant colours? Why go the length of making them so pretty?

She can hear her husband’s footsteps, the characteristic jiggle of coins and keys in his pocket, but otherwise the museum is quiet. He comes up behind her and puts his hands on her shoulders while he looks at the chastity belt, with its curved, outward-facing spikes.

‘Ouch,’ he says. ‘That would set your gas at a peep, wouldn't it?’ He peers more closely. ‘Christ you wouldn't even want to have a wee feel, would you?’

‘I think that’s the general idea.’


It is an October afternoon in this small hill town in Tuscany. And it is raining.  They were on their way to seek shelter in the Etruscan Museum when Davy was sidetracked by the sign advertising the Museo Della Tortura with a wooden cage containing a skeleton in the doorway. 

‘Oh wow,’ he said. ‘Come on. Let’s go in.’

‘But the baby...’

‘The baby’s fast asleep. He won’t know where he is. His world is one giant milk bar.’

It’s true enough. Angus is asleep in his sling, his cheek turned towards her breast. He is too heavy for it now, a big boy, gaining weight fast, and her back hurts but he seems so comfortable that she puts up with it for the sake of peace and quiet.

This is their first holiday as a family. Until now, it has always been just the two of them,

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