The Meditations is a curated series of reflections on writing and storytelling from contributors to the thirty-third issue of Going Down Swinging. This reflection comes from Valery Petrovskiy on his story ‘Sharm el-Sheikh’.


TO MY MIND, WHILE STARTING A PIECE IT’S OF GREAT IMPORTANCE to hit on the right intonation and discover pulse of the story: I mean phrases’ length and their rhythm. Yes, I believe that prose should be rhythmic and I do my best to make my wording flown with a beat.

With ‘Sharm el-Sheikh’ I had a kind of confessional text, and whereas it was written impulsively at one sitting, its pulse is obvious.

First it all started with a dream, and I described it in my story: the dream was so strong in feeling and so emotional that I almost choked with no air while in bed. It was all about swimming and diving deep as if I were a child, but there was no mum or dad about.

…Later on, I got a seven-day voucher to the sea, to Sharm el-Sheikh: it’s in Egypt, on the Red Sea coast. A plan was to have a rest for a week with two friends: underlying reason was that one had his birthday right at that time. Unfortunately, he failed to visit Sharm el-Sheikh with me. So, I started there with a guy who was not quite my pal, and he had no birthday then. Still we quartered together to make it cheap. I’m not sure that he saved much money staying with me because we had to discuss much in spite we were on holiday.

Not long before that, I had lost my dad, so I don’t think I was a good interlocutor then. No, I didn’t keep silent, quite the contrary, I spoke much and mostly about my dad. These were my childhood events mainly that I told him: about my dad, my brother and both of them next time. Good of me, I didn’t accompany the fellow when he started to see the Egyptian pyramids somewhere far from Sharm el-Sheikh.

You know how still life can be on holiday if you are after it: still was the southern night, motionless the sea spread itself out and palms’ leaves didn’t stir hanging exhausted after a hot day. But I kept in mind that at sea, not far from the shore, invisible in the dark rested ruins of what ones was a vessel. It had perished but didn’t sink, and it was considered a local curiosity, and it attracted me more than the far away Sphinx.

It would have been nice to say that the piece was ready right that night but it’s not true.

Still the work published in GDS #33 was more about my mum than dad. And in fact, it was created soon after I was back from Sharm el-Sheikh.

The pal took a different plane to fly home. At parting he said that he was dead beat of the stories about my dad’s affairs, “And why you didn’t utter a word about your mum?” He was first to fly away, in an hour I followed him to Moscow. When back home, I put down the piece about my mum at once. Originally my short story was titled Into the Blue on New Year Eve or Slumber in Mother’s Lap’. Or something like that, a bit longish, wasn’t it? So I readily agreed to Geoff Lemon’s prompt to change it, to make it short. Afterwards it appeared in print under the name my file to GDS had been mailed: ‘Sharm el-Sheikh’, thank to Geoff.

I ever name a file according to the key word, not a story’s title, regardless it was all inspired by a fellow we’d lodged together one time there at the seaside.

By Valery Petrovskiy


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