Meet Harri Selwyn, a minor-celebrity who once ran with the Kalenjin tribe of Kenya, a nation which has won more Olympic medals than any other. Harri, at 79 years old, still runs and has the inspiring, disciplined mind of a man who can achieve greatness.
Through this narrator, Bianchi vividly explores the complex relationship between the things that go right, and those that don’t as the day unfolds. Harri rises one morning to prepare for the next day’s race, unaware that the world as he knows it has changed: his wife lies dead in her bed upstairs.
Bianchi is a master of timing and balance in storytelling structure. The reader experiences the hilarity of Harri’s day before being tenderly pulled back to the horror of what awaits him upstairs.
Harri’s behaviour is often ridiculous and sometimes painfully embarrassing. His moral dislocation from the world never ceases to surprise – his behaviour is, in fact, appalling – but the author’s warm affection makes entering Harri’s world and recognisable obsessions a compulsive read. Bianchi walks a tightrope between what are personal quirks and a sportsman’s discipline and what veers into madness. Harri’s theory of how to slow down the heart and live forever is endearing, confused and child-like but may be pure genius. We want to believe him; we want to steer the day well for him and lead him away from the chaos he keeps walking into, while we know and fear the ultimate chaos waiting in the bedroom.
Woven into the tapestry of this not-so-according-to-plan day is Harri’s life story, as reported to the journalist Sam Appleby and, among other things, how it was that this Welshman kept company with the Kalenjin. There in his homely kitchen, the oppression of the Mau Mau and his minor part in defending the crown is as real to him as the day itself, if not more so. And beyond this domestic microcosm – the complex layers of human relationships, logic, morality and the lack thereof – Bianchi provides a timely image of the political world we live in today.
Tony Bianchi delivers every time: an author full of wanderlust for life and the human heart. This gripping story explores the possibility of the despicable, grotesque and surreal in all of us.
‘One of the most exciting writers working in Wales today.’
'Tony Bianchi revels in cruelty. But it isn’t about the characters or their circumstances, or even their story, stupid; it’s all about the reader. Ras Olaf Harri Selwyn is an excruciating piece of work: an exercise in the dark art of dramatic irony ... Without effort, Tony Bianchi holds a pin so close to the narrative that it puckers the taut surface, makes it squeak, stretch and distort – but withholds the bang.'
William Owen Roberts