Selected Stories

Selected Stories

by E.M. Forster

Although he is best known for his exquisite novels, E.M. Forster also wrote remarkable short stories.

Like his novels, the stories whether they are set in Italy, Greece, India, and other places Forster visited, or in England itself contrast the freedom of paganism with the restraints of English civilization, the personal, sensual delights of the body with the impersonal, inhibiting rules imposed by society.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Short Stories
  • Rating: 3.87
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: March 29th 2001 by Penguin Classics
  • Isbn10: 0141186194
  • Isbn13: 9780141186191

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I once read that E.M. Forster said or his favored theme was "always connect" and in this story he presents a world where there is very little human contact or connection and tries to show the price of losing it. He loses it a little here with characters that feel more automated. In the story an older man on vacation with his daughter and her friends wants to stop and live in a village in Greece, where he feels part of things, he's alive again, to use the cliched term.

It might be because I just read hundreds of pages of pulpy, early 20th-century sci-fi shorts, but Forster's collection strikes me as masterful. I must admit I've read "The Celestial Omnibus" so many times that it has somewhat lost its effect on me, although I do believe it's a great story overall. Among the second group of stories, "The Machine Stops" and "The Eternal Moment" are outstanding, and not only for their near-novella lengths. "The Machine Stops" is noteworthy as Forster's only true science-fiction story, and one of the earliest serious attempts at the genre. I knew nothing of Forster's homosexuality so it was interesting to read the stories free of context and then think back on them with the new background knowledge. "The Story of the Siren," "The Curate's Friend," and "The Point of It" certainly become more complex through the lens of Forster's self-repression.

For a different side of Forster, one can look at his shorter works, and Selected Stories contains the short fiction of Forsters which was published in his lifetime. All in all there are twelve works included in this collection, all of which would be considered either short stories or novelettes. The stories included are: The Story of a Panic a novelette which was first published in March of 1904 in the Independent Review. The Other Side of the Hedge a short story which was first published in November of 1904 in the Independent Review. The Celestial Omnibus a short story which was first published in January of 1908 in the Albany Review. Forster again goes to Greek mythology in this story where a clergyman, Harry, discovers a faun living in Wiltshire. The Road from Colonus a short story which was first published in the Independent Review in June of 1904. Forster once again goes to Greek mythology for the story of Oedipus, though in this case the man who would be Oedipus, Mr. Lucas is forced from Colonus. The Machine Stops a novelette which was first published in November of 1909 in The Oxford and Cambridge Review. The Point of It a short story which was first published in November of 1911 in the English Review. In this story Forsters secular humanism is apparent in the story of a Christian, Mr. Andrews, who meets a Muslim on his way to heaven. The Eternal Moment a novelette which was first published in June of 1905 in The Independent Review.

"...for the fog had come down from London in the night, and all Surbiton was wrapped in its embrace" (33). "...and its two great lamps shone through the fog against the alley's walls, changing their cobwebs and moss into tissues of fairyland" (34).

He had five novels published in his lifetime, achieving his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924) which takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj. Forster's views as a secular humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society.