Born in Salford in 1944, David Constantine worked for thirty years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published several volumes of poetry, most recently, Nine Fathom Deep (2009). He is a translator of Hölderlin, Brecht, Goethe, Kleist, Michaux and Jaccottet. In 2003 his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Lighter than Air won the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. His translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I was published by Penguin in 2005; Part II in April 2009. He is also author of one novel, Davies, and Fields of Fire: A Life of Sir William Hamilton. His four short story collections are Back at the Spike, the highly acclaimed Under the Dam (Comma, 2005), and The Shieling (Comma, 2009), which was shortlisted for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Constantine’s story ‘Tea at the Midland’ won the BBC National Short Story Award 2010.
The collection Tea at the Midland won the 2013 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
"FLAWLESS AND UNSETTLING" - Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year 2005, The Independent.
In the middle of a speech a businessman realises his soul has just left his body. In an Athens marketplace, a jealous lover finds himself staggering through a vision of hell. High in the Alps, a young woman’s body re-appears in the glacier, perfectly preserved, where she fell 50 years before.
Entering Constantine’s stories is like stepping out into a wind of words, a swarm of language. His prose is as fluid as the water that surges and swells through all his landscapes. Yet, against this fluidity, his stories are able to stop time, to freeze-frame each protagonist’s life just at the moment when the past breaks the surface, or when the present - like the dam of the title - collapses under its own weight.
“I started reading these stories quietly, and then became obsessed, read them all fast, and started re-reading them again and again. They are gripping tales, but what is startling is the quality of the writing. Every sentence is both unpredictable and exactly what it should be. Reading them is a series of short shocks of (agreeably envious) pleasure...”
– AS Byatt, Book of the Week, The Guardian
“A superb collection”
– Nicholas Royle, The Independent
“This is a haunting collection filled with delicate clarity. Constantine has a sure grasp of the fear and fragility within his characters.”
– A. L. Kennedy
Set on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation and in its surrounding counties, the stories in this linked collection detail the lives of rural men and women with stark realism and plainspoken humor. A young military couple faces a future shadowed by injury and untold secrets. A dying alcoholic attempts to reconcile with his estranged children. And an elderly woman's nurse weathers life with her irascible charge by making payments on a decrepit houseboat—the Mattaponi Queen. The land is parceled into lots, work opportunities are few, and the remaining inhabitants must choose between desire and necessity as they navigate the murky stream of possession, love, and everything in between.
The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.