El Milagro and Other Stories
Patricia Preciado Martin University of Arizona Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3563.A7272M55 1996 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Ticking clocks and tolling bells, scents of roses and warm tortillas: this is the barrio of years past as captured in the words of Patricia Preciado Martin. Cuentos, recuerdos, stories, memories—all are stirred into a simmering caldo by a writer whose love for her heritage shines through every page.
Reminiscent of Like Water for Chocolate, the book is a rich mix of the simplest ingredients—food, family, tradition. We see Silviana striding to her chicken coop, triggering the "feathered pandemonium" of chickens who smell death in the air. We meet Elena, standing before the mirror in her wedding dress, and Teodoro Sánchez, who sleeps under the sky and smells of “chaparral and mesquite pollen and the stream bottom and the bone dust of generations. There’s the monsignor sitting on the edge of a sofa, sipping Nescafé from a china cup, and here is Sister Francisca "with her warm, minty breath" warning us away from impure thoughts. Be on your best behavior, too, in Tía Petra’s Edwardian parlor—la Doña Petrita, descended from conquistadores, might just deliver a tap on your head with her silver-handled walking stick. Then, with Mamacita, spend a summer afternoon bent over your embroidery with trembling hand and sweaty upper lip, and all the while wondering what in the world it feels like to be kissed.
Intermingled with the author’s stories are collective memories of the barrio, tales halfway between heaven and earth that seem to connect barrio residents to each other and to their past. These cuentos are mystical and dreamy, peopled with ghosts and miracles and Aztec princesses dressed in feathers and gold. Come, sit down and have some salsa and a tortilla—fresh and homemade, it goes without saying; people who buy tortillas at the market "might as well move to Los Angeles, for they have already lost their souls." Then open the pages of this book. Help yourself to another feast of food and flowers, music and dancing, sunshine and moonlight—everything glorious and mundane, serious and humorous, earthly and spiritual, poignant and joyful, in la vida mexicoamericana.
In 1994 Russian writer Victor Erofeyev proclaimed Leonid Dobychin "one of the main heroes of twentieth-century Russian literature." Obscure for many years, Dobychin is now celebrated as a modernist master. His short stories are hailed as a sort of Soviet version of Joyce's Dubliners-subtle and tightly constructed miniatures linked by recurring themes and full of ironic juxtaposition, context, allusion, and style.
For Dobychin early Soviet society was an absurdist wonderland. He was not anti-Soviet but trans-Soviet, practicing realism but looking at reality from jarring angles. A typical day for a Dobychin hero includes participation in character-building sports, witnessing a parade, attending a funeral, and memorial to fallen communists-and finally reflecting at the end of the day that he almost met a pretty young sick-nurse. Dobychin's stories reveal a Brave New World where idealism rubs shoulders with heartless ambition and political denunciation, and ubiquitous acronyms and revolutionary cliché maul the language. But he also describes the absurdities of a place where office girls pray for the arrest of disliked co-workers and prisoner work gangs are made to spell out beautiful but empty platitudes in beds of sand. This collection includes all of the stories published in Dobychin's lifetime, plus two stories that remained unpublished until the late 1980s.
Yury Trifonov took a turn toward the controversial, and a leap toward greatness, with the publication of the two novellas included in this collection. "The Exchange" and "The Long Goodbye" depict the complex dilemmas and compromises of Russian life after World War II. These works, along with the short stories "Games at Dusk" and "A Short Stay in the Torture Chamber," detail the moral and spiritual decline in Russia that resulted from the growing distance between the theoretical idealism of the Soviet state and the actual materialism and careerism that increasingly marked society.
Tales of risk and danger, suffering, disease, horror, and death. Tales, also, of courage and dignity, hard work, and human endurance in the face of hostile nature and the frequent brutality of men. And tales flavored with piquant touches of humor and bemused irony. These are the stories of the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga, here presented in an important compilation of thirteen of his most compelling tales, sensitively selected and translated by J. David Danielson. Author of some two hundred pieces of fiction, often compared to the works of Kipling, Jack London, and Edgar Allan Poe, Quiroga set many of his stories in the territory of Misiones in northeastern Argentina, the subtropical jungle region where he spent much of his life. Included here are stories from Los desterrados (1926) often said to be his best book, as well as others from Cuentos de amor de locura y de muerte (1917), Anaconda (1921), and El Desierto (1924). The publication of this selection marks the first appearance in English of all but two of the thirteen stories. Quiroga here presents a wide range of characters: parents and children, servant girls and prostitutes, landowners and lumber barons, foremen and laborers, natives and immigrants, in stories pervaded by a vision of life that is elemental, incisive, and essentially tragic. The Exiles and Other Stories shows the versatility and skill that have made him a classic Spanish American writer. It complements and illumines The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories, selected and translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, also published by the University of Texas Press.