Rare audio recordings of authors reading their own short stories published for the first time by the British Library

The British Library has released a 3-CD set, The Spoken Word: Short Stories, including a wide range of stories, from the elegantly-turned miniatures of Somerset Maugham to the eerie supernatural tales of Algernon Blackwood.

Featuring authors including Kingsley Amis and Harold Pinter reading their own work, this selection from an unrivalled archive of recordings stretches back to BBC broadcasts made in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The set offers a unique opportunity to hear some of the most highly-regarded practitioners of the craft in their own voices. All the recordings, including a rare live recording of William Trevor made by the British Library, are being published for the first time.

The complete list of writers featured on the CD is below:

  • Kingsley Amis
  • Phyllis Bentley
  • Algernon Blackwood
  • Angela Carter
  • Edna O’Brien
  • Harold Pinter
  • V S Pritchett
  • William Trevor
  • A E Coppard
  • Lord Dunsany
  • Frank O’Connor
  • Seán Ó’Faoláin
  • Somerset Maugham

Steve Cleary, Curator of Drama and Literature at the British Library, said: “Although the audiobook sector has gone from strength to strength in recent years, relatively few products feature a contemporary author reading his or her own prose. Historical recordings of authors reading their own prose works are even more rare. The pleasure of this set lies both in its literary-historical importance and in the differing sensibilities of the authors present, resulting in a varied programme that includes examples of the classic literary short story form alongside ghost stories, tall tales and fantastic fables.”


Notes to Editors:

The Spoken Word: Short Stories was published by the British Library, price £20.37. The 3CD set contains 15 recordings, total duration 218 mins (ISBN 978 0 7123 5110 2). The recordings are copyright of the BBC or the British Library Board.

The 3CD set is available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: bl-bookshop@bl.uk) and online at www.bl.uk/shop as well as other bookshops throughout the UK.

Track Listing The Spoken Word: Short Stories


1. Somerset Maugham
Date of broadcast: 20.02.1951
Duration: 7.27

2. Frank O’Connor
The Idealist
Date of broadcast: 17.03.1949
Duration: 13.46

3. Phyllis Bentley
Date of recording: 21.11.1949
Duration: 13.35

4. Seán Ó’Faoláin
The Fur Coat
Date of broadcast: 16.02.1968
Duration: 14.46

5. V S Pritchett
The Fly in the Ointment
Date of broadcast: 20.06.1948
Duration: 22.11


1. Edna O’Brien
The Small-Town Lovers
Date of broadcast: 25.10.1979
Duration: 13.28

2. Somerset Maugham
The Luncheon
Date of broadcast: 20.02 1951
Duration: 6.49

3. Harold Pinter
Tea Party
Date of broadcast: 29.08.1964
Duration: 13.24

4. Algernon Blackwood
The Destruction of Smith
Date of broadcast: 03.03.1948
Duration: 16.42

5. Kingsley Amis
The Green Man Revisited
Date of recording: 27.02.1972
Duration: 23.46


1. Lord Dunsany
The Pearly Beach
Date of recording: 18.05.1948
Duration: 17.33

2. Algernon Blackwood
The Texas Farm Disappearance
Date of recording: 07.05.1948 (probably broadcast week beginning 10.05.48)
Duration: 5.18

3. Angela Carter
The Snow Child
Date of broadcast: 14.05.1978
Duration: 3.13

4. A E Coppard
Princess of Kingdom Gone
Date of broadcast: 23.05.1948
Duration: 14.49

5. William Trevor
An Evening with John Joe Dempsey
Date of recording: 30.08.1983
Duration: 31.09

For more information contact:


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