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emma-smith_spring1944_grand_union_canal_far_right Emma Smith in the spring of 1944, second from the right, on the canal boat she wrote about in Maiden's Trip. Two years later she would go to India with a documentary film unit, and then spend a year in Paris writing The Far Cry, which came out in 1949 when she was still only 26. In 1951 she was runner-up in the Observer short story competition when it was won by Muriel Spark; this was the competition that Diana Athill won in 1958. When she came and spoke at a lunch in the shop, Diana told us about going to the Observer and being asked if she would like to see the other entrants to the prize. A door was opened and an entire room was stacked with typescripts (two thousand of them): she has never forgotten the sight of all that paper and the glorious feeling that her story had been chosen out of all of them. It was very very bad luck for Emma Smith that Muriel Spark submitted a story her year; she is a remarkable writer (The Far Cry has been one of our bestsellers, entirely by word of mouth) and winning the competition would have been a huge boost, as it was for Diana.

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