Fado and Other Stories
Katherine Vaz University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997 Library of Congress PS3572.A97F34 1997 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Winner of the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize
This collection is filled with narrative and character grounded in the meaning and value the earth gives to human existence. In one story, a woman sleeps with the village priest, trying to gain back the land the church took from her family; in another, relatives in the Azores fight over a plot of land owned by their expatriate American cousin. Even apparently small images are cast in terms of the earth: Milton, one narrator explains, has made apples the object of a misunderstanding by naming them as Eden’s fruit: “In the Bible, no fruit is named in the Garden of Eden - and to this day apples are misunderstood. They were trying to tempt people not into sin but into listening to the earth more closely. . . . their white meal runs wet with the knowledge of the language of the land, but people do not listen.”
Vaz’s beautiful, intensely conscious language often delicately slips her stories into the realm of the fado, the Portuguese song about fate and longing. “Listen for the nightingale that presses its breast against the thorns of the rose,” on character sings, “that the song might be more beautiful.” Such a verse might describe Vaz’s own motive behind her willingness to confront her subject’s ambiguities and her characters’ conflicts - the simultaneous joy and sorrow of some of life’s discoveries, the pain sometimes hidden within passion and pleasure.
The great nineteenth-century Portuguese author José Maria Eça de Queirós (1845-1900) has long been known for his novels, especially The Crime of Father Amaro (1880) and The Maias (1888). However, he also wrote short stories, and a number of them, having stood the test of time, are now regarded as masterpieces. Although there is no question that Eça owes the lion’s share of his reputation to his long fiction, the tales in this collection tell us that we are reading the work of a writer in full control of both genres.
The eleven selections range widely in theme and length and, except for “The Catastrophe”(which was published posthumously), are arranged in order of the year of publication. “The Falling Snow” and “Master Devil” contain elements of both the fantastic and realistic, a number of which call to mind Edgar Allan Poe, a writer whom Eça read and greatly admired. The power of love becomes the obsession of love in “The Peculiarities of a Blonde Girl” and “José Matias,” two of the stories that stand at the pinnacle of Eça’s reputation as a short story writer. “Civilization” will speak to nostalgia for a rustic life, while “Perfection” searches, through Ulysses and a special goddess, into a different kind of life, one without blemish. Other tales explore the nature of sacrifice (“The Wet Nurse”), greed and betrayal (“The Treasure”), jealousy and vengeance (“The Dead Man”), and faith in a young rabbi named Jesus (“The Gentle Miracle”). No one knows why Eça withheld publication of “The Catastrophe,” but this powerful story engages us with its naked intensity, its aroused passion, and its blunt honesty, for it amounts to a ringing endorsement of the exalted meaning of patriotism.
Fertility and Other Stories
Vsevolod Ivanov Northwestern University Press, 1998 Library of Congress PG3476.I9A23 1998 | Dewey Decimal 891.7342
Vsevolod Ivanov's personal experiences in Siberia and Central Asia during the Revolution and Civil War, set against a childhood and youth wandering that vast expanse, infuse his writing. Combining traditional elements with the fantastic and the surreal, Ivanov's stories address not only the themes of the Revolution--the dehumanizing effects of famine; the ferment, energy, and uncertainty of the tempestuous times—but also the quotidian: the quiet world of man and nature, and the elemental bond that tied peasants to their native land. Fertility and Other Stories makes available for the first time in English some of the best stories of one of the most talented twentieth-century Russian writers.
Flight And Other Stories
José Skinner University of Nevada Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3569.K499F57 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
In this rich group of stories about Latinos in the American Southwest, Skinner explores many themes. "Archangela's Place" features a wonderful Mexican character who weaves herself permanently into the lives of an Anglo family with enduring results. "Flight" tackles racial misunderstanding between an urban African-American and a rural Chicano woodcutter. Coming-of-age stories, "Eloy" and "Every Head's A World," illustrate in various degrees of tragedy and comedy the complexities faced by Hispanic-American youth. "Careful" is an ironic and humorous story of an encounter between two gay teenagers, one Hispanic and one Anglo, that is admirably honest and compelling in its sensuality. Among the rest are two pure romances, "Pickup," which is like a tormented country-western song, and "Spring," a witty story of love unrequited for forty years until, finally, the elderly lovers can openly and tenderly embrace in a passionate and charming conclusion. The stories in this collection show a wide range of compassion and understanding of the often confusing rules of love in a multicultural world.