‘The Impossible Girl,’ Jenna Coleman, has provided a reading as part of Esquire’s Summer Fiction series. The series is a collection of original stories and readings to raise funds UNICEF’s Generation Covid campaign. Coleman is herself a UNICEF supporter.
UNICEF has launched its appeal because coronavirus is merely the latest onslaught to be endured by children who are already vulnerable because of war, disease, hunger, and poverty:
In fact, 6000 children could die every day as coronavirus weakens national health systems and disrupts vital services. Without urgent action, coronavirus threatens to reverse 10 years of progress on reducing the number of children dying from preventable causes.
The reading is Pressures, Residential by the author Philip Hensher. The tale is presented as an email from the ‘building guardian’ of a tower block to its manager, reporting on developments during the previous month. Of course, there’s much more than that going on, but to say more would be to say too much.
Hensher has written two short story collections and 10 novels, including the Booker Prize longlisted The Mulberry Empire and Scenes from Early Life, which won the 2013 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. Of writing this piece during COVID-19, he says,
One of the strangest things to happen in my lifetime is the emptying of central London. During the lockdown, I would sometimes go for walks along the river near my house and see huge new developments dark at night; purchased, but uninhabited. The relationship between a human and the shell it lives in, the property it inhabits, haunts the imagination. When property is unlived in, or even unloved, it gives off a strange, sad aura. Everyone knows the difference between a holiday rental that has been borrowed from someone who lives there regularly, and one that has been furnished in bulk from IKEA, to make money. One day an architect told me that it isn’t just a matter of aura and emotional residue that troubles uninhabited houses. It is matters of construction and structure. The pipes need to feel the flow of life and usage.
The story appears in the July/August issue of Esquire. You can listen below although, be warned, it contains very strong language, right from the start. You can donate to UNICEF by clicking here.