Short Story: Thoughts of a Soldier by Cornelia Fick

Novel Writing Festival

Watch the August 2016 Winning Short Story Reading. 

Reading Performed by actor Julian Ford

Thoughts of a Soldier  by Cornelia Fick

Get to know the winning writer:

1. What is your 1pg Short Story about?

‘Thoughts of a soldier’ is about a fictitious war during the struggle to overthrow apartheid.

2. What genres would you say this short story is in?
This is a literary story, experimenting with punctuation.

3. How would you describe this story in two words?

Poignant, intriguing

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

I’ve seen ‘Gone with the wind’ a number of times.

5. How long have you been working on this story?

I wrote this story long ago and kept returning to it to refine it. Finally, I worked on it during my MA Creative Writing degree at Rhodes University and perfected it (I hope).

6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

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Which books would I take to a desert island?


I don’t k20160606_090301now if I would take any books to a desert island. Where would I store them? They would get awfully dirty, rained on and maybe eaten if I was excessively hungry. Being of a practical nature I would think of survival first.

But if I were to choose five books, it would be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, In Corner B by Eskia Mphahlela, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Wuthering heights by Emily Bronte.

Jane Austen’s elegant prose would feed my soul. Her finely crafted characters and ironic wit would be great company. The story of Elizabeth Bennet making snap judgements with little evidence, and Mr Darcy overcoming his pride to fall in love with her, is a story worthy of being read again and again.

On a desert island I would have the time to reread Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a book I found disturbing when I read it the first time. That slavery could make a mother want to kill her children rather than having them recaptured is shocking, especially as the novel is based on a true story of a mother killing her two-year-old daughter because she was trying to protect her. Warped yes, but surely the greatest story of a mother’s love?

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a slim book but such a great story. It’s a book that I reread every couple of years. The friendship between two opposites, a big man and a small man, a normal and mentally disabled man, which results in the normal one killing the other, fascinates me. It says a lot about how mentally disabled people are perceived. The parallel stories of Candy’s dog being shot as well as Lennie being killed, places a question mark over their friendship. Was it the friendship a man has with his dog? And is it the only relationship possible between normal people and those who are not?  It’s the kind of book I would like to write, saying so much with a few words.

In Corner B is a delightful book. It would make me laugh, especially the story about the coffins used to carry illegal alcohol. Eskia’s description of an illiterate grandmother’s understanding of the government as a single person living in Pretoria is brilliant. He is a fearless writer who observes the warts in his own people as well as others.

Being a romantic, I like a good love story. Wuthering heights by Bronte would feed my imagination of a great love and its capacity for destruction. I have this theory that a man loves more if he is thwarted (as in The Great Gatsby) and less if he is successful in attaining the object of his desire.

More about Eye of a Needle

 Set in contemporary South Africa, Eye of a needle is a collection of stories that investigates the complex relationships between men and women, and amongst women. A man moves in with a woman but discovers a nasty surprise (‘Moving in’), and the relationship between a younger and an older woman is the topic of ‘The old suitcase’, as well as the short piece ‘The right to live’.

Influenced by Lydia Davis, Maxine Chernoff and Flannery O’Connor, the short stories are a combination of flash fiction and longer narratives. ‘The right to live’ is under 1000 words, as well as ‘Getting along’, ‘Begoogled’, etc.

Experimental forms of storytelling are next to more traditional fiction. ‘Running a stop street’ and ‘Thoughts of a soldier’ experiment with punctuation, ‘Opposites attract’ uses the same sentence structure to demonstrate oppositional concepts, while ‘Love at first bite’ takes a cheeky look at love through the lens of a Mills & Boon novel.

The content is a mixture of realism and fantasy. The gritty reality of ‘Shadow kids’ coexists with the imaginary world created in ‘Akere’. The fable ‘Courage the mouse’ is light and playful while ‘To die for’ describes an abusive relationship.

Recurring themes are the battles of women, their abuse, the experience of being the outsider, and the difficulties of growing old.

Told in the first, second and third person the stories in the collection are designed to take the reader on a journey into the writer’s world with passion, insight and humour.