Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Curse" aka "Nightfall" (short story): Fate of a bombed city

Among the least entertaining stories by Clarke. The only good thing about it is that it is really short!

Story summary (spoiler).

Story describes the state of a dead small town some days after a nuclear bomb was dropped on it. It is completely descriptive - no humans, animals or dialogs - and of course the mood is sad & nostalgic.

The town involved is Stratford-upon-Avon, apparently a very well known city in England, located on the banks of river Avon. The city is both the birthplace of William Shakespeare, & where his grave is located. Both the grave & the river make an appearance towards the end of story.

Story apparently gets its title from the last line of the translation-to-modern-English of the well known epitaph on the gravestone, though the story quotes the original epitaph when identifying the grave:

"Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare
to digg the dvst encloased heare
Blese be y man y spares thes stones,
and cvrst be he y moves my bones.

Story dateline has an anomaly I could not resolve. The city was accidentally bombed some 300 years after Shakespeare died. The story is told a few days after the incident. That would place it about the year 1616 + 300 = 1916 AD. Yet the bomb dropped is a hydrogen bomb!


Till I saw Sarah's comment below, I had no idea of the identity of either the city or gravestone, nor any idea of the importance of both to England. Thanks Sarah.

I substantially revised the text above on June 22, 2007 after following Sarah's links, & after rereading the story.

See also.

  1. Other stories with nearly the same subject matter: Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains", & Arthur Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth ...". Bradbury's version is the lightest read.
  2. Henry Gee's "Are We Not Men": While I didn't quite like either, if you liked Curse, you might like this story by Gee too. Very similar telling style, though on a different subject.

Fact sheet.

"The Curse" aka "Nightfall", short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
First Published: 1953
Rating: C

Collected in.

  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  2. "Reach for tomorrow"
  3. "More Than One Universe"


Sarah K said...

Actually, I love this story. It's subtle, though, and it went completely over my head the first time I read it.

It's not just any small town, after all--and certainly not any old epitaph, either. :)

xblaine said...

This story completely rocked! It actually gave me chill bumps when I read it! I especially loved the tone of the piece.

Anonymous said...

Stratford upon Avon is a town - not a city. It's actually quite small - this is a great story though.

Trust me, I live there.

Anonymous said...

Yeah i live in Stratford too