As it says in the introduction to my list, I gave it my “best shot.”
Here are a few of the stories I chose:
1. “Continuity of Parks,” Julio Cortázar – Kind of have to make this number 1, since it was the first story I read in Spanish that totally blew my mind . . . And created a life-long passion for Cortázar.
3. “Entropy,” Thomas Pynchon – I love Pynchon so much, I’d tattoo him on my arm. His stories may be so-so, but his comments about women’s hair are brilliant: “I will spare everybody a detailed discussion of all the over-writing that occurs in these stories, except to mention how distressed I am at the number of tendrils that keep showing up. I still don’t even know for sure what a tendril is.”
6. “Her Sense of Timing,” Stanley Elkin – This is one of those stories that’s hilarious, since it’s not happening to you. Watching a disabled man struggle to host a surreally destructive party on the same day his wife leaves him has never been so hysterical.
10. “The Dinosaur,” Augusto Monterroso – So, I’ll just give you this whole story rather than try and describe it: “When [s]he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.” That’s it, and that’s brilliant.
There’s been a lot of talk about the revival of interest in long-form non-fiction thanks to the Internet and apps and what not. There’s longform.org, givemesomethingtoread.com, and, more to the electronic point, Kindle Singles.
Now, you could argue that this isn’t really a revival, but rather an embracing of a distribution system for journalism more in line with our times than the printing of magazines or newspaper or books on current affairs.
Regardless, in our Age of Apps, it seems like this revived interest could expand to short stories as well. Rather than buying a journal with a ton of short stories (many of which you probably won’t like), or reading the New Yorker, single-story delivery systems are kind of perfect. Witness the astounding success of One Story.
All of this is a long ramble to introducing Storyville, an iEverything app that provides a new story every week from around the world. It’s a very pretty app, and perfect for giving you something new to read on a regular basis that is interesting, enjoyable, and substantial (but not overwhelming).
One self-serving reason I’m mentioning this now is because Merce Rodoreda’s “Guinea Fowls” (available in her Selected Stories) is this week’s featured story.
Translator Martha Tennent provided a very interesting introduction to this story, which you can read here.
As a translator, I search for a concept of style that will help formulate a strategy for rendering the work into English. It is always difficult to translate from Catalan, for we lack in English a sense of the literary and cultural traditions that have produced Catalan literature, something that does not occur, for example, with French. When translating Rodoreda’s last, posthumous novel, Death in Spring—a surrealist novel that depicts a mythical world where ritual violence is part of the village’s daily life—I sought analogies in English that would help the Anglophone reader interpret the text. I found inspiration in Angela Carter’s Gothic tales and in the rich vocabulary and nature images of D.H. Lawrence. I developed a lexicon based on these writers and attempted to insert expressions garnered from these parallel genres in the English literary tradition at strategic points in my translation.
I worked in a similar fashion when translating the collection of short stories by Rodoreda. Her short narratives reflect at times a Virginia Woolf type of stream of consciousness, but more often a dramatic realism, even a laconic minimalism, seen in the styles of Hemingway or Raymond Carver, writers who helped me develop a style for the story “Guinea Fowl,” where the stark realism of a brutal market scene is glimpsed through the eyes of a young boy. The precision of observation and ear for capturing the rhythm of the spoken language that Mercè Rodoreda shows in much of her writing is clearly evident in “Guinea Fowl.”
Click here to download the Storyville app and to read Rodoreda’s awesome story . . . .
(One last digression: It’s amazing that last week Rodoreda’s Death in Spring was on NPR, and this week her story is being featured in Storyville. She was an incredible figure and I’m really glad Open Letter has been able to make her work available to a much wider group of readers. And hopefully this sort of “Rodoreda rediscovery” will go on for years and years and years.)
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