A short story about literature and authorship, as well as the tension between cultural assimilation and ethnicity, with Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Ricci and Fernando Sorrentino in the cast. Written by Clark M. Zlotchew.
«Some startling, even fascinating, discoveries come one’s way purely by chance at times... I was in Buenos Aires during July and August 1984 to interview the world-renowned writer Jorge Luis Borges and several other Argentine authors. One evening I was a dinner guest at the elegant Arroyo Street apartment of the British-born playwright William Shand. Among the guests were writers with whom I had been corresponding for years but whom I had not met in person until that July. Julio Ricci, who had taken the boat from Montevideo to be present at this gathering, was involved in a heated discussion with Fernando Sorrentino. I joined them...»
Keys: oil, name, water, story
A short story in eight scenes about two friends. By Robert McDonald.
«The boy sat drinking his cup of coffee by the cracked window. A wisteria branch had pushed its way through the crack in the window, widening it. Perhaps it had made the crack. A splash of purple flowers grew like grapes at its end, filling the cheap college slum with a sickly sweet smell...»
Keys: boy, time, door
A literary pilgrimage to Cortázar’s tomb. By Margaret Wilmot.
«I have already had a long walk through the foggy February morning—I never arrive early to meet you, who sleep so badly and rise to Argentine time, and, in any case, do not like walking—before (touching my earrings) I locate 18, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville. Cité Internationale des Arts. Near Saint Gervais and Saint Protais of the beautiful singing...»
Keys: death, Cortázar, time, glass
Meeting Thomas will change forever the main character’s life. A road story by Robert McDonald.
«I met Thomas in the early ’90s on the old Northern Avenue bridge, far enough from the business district to be rid of the suits. The harbor was stained orange by the street lamps, and all I really saw was his silhouette, tall and lanky. I probably never would’ve stopped if it wasn’t for that silhouette...»
Keys: car, city
«In his brief prologue to Stelzvögel, professor Franz Klamm explains that Dr. Ludwig Boitus travelled from Gottingen to Huayllén-Naquén with the sole purpose of studying in situ the assimilative attraction of the long-legged bird popularly known as calegüinas (this name has almost unanimous acceptance in the specialist literature in Spanish and it will be used here)...»
Keys: calegüinas, lagoon, tourists
«There’s a man in the habit of hitting me on the head with an umbrella. It makes exactly five years today that he’s been hitting me on the head with his umbrella. At first I couldn’t stand it; now I’m used to it...»
Keys: umbrella, head, man, hit
Adventures of a Yale student in Batista’s Cuba. A short story by Gary Beck.
«My closest friend Randy and I were recruited by a radical organization at Yale to smuggle guns to a young revolutionary in Cuba, Fidel Castro, in 1958. The plan was to take a sailboat from Miami to Cuba. We hitchhiked from New Haven to Florida and somewhere around Daytona Beach we got separated. By the time I finally got to the Brown Pelican Marina in Miami, it was after midnight...»
Keys: bus, man, hotel
This short story by the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino is a masterly lecture on how to overcome the misfortune of being charming. This funny story was translated from Spanish by Thomas C. Meehan and was included in the book Sanitary Centennial, and Selected Short Stories (University of Texas Press, 1988).
«My wife’s name is Graciela; mine is Arthur. ’They’re such a charming couple,’ our friends are always saying. They’re right, we are a bright, young, elegant, Cosmopolitan married couple, good conversationalists and financially secure...»
Keys: life, party, home
A short story about presents by Margaret Wilmot.
«Once upon a time a lad came home from his travels, his cases overflowing. Out onto the cottage floor spilled bright silken shirts and shawls, a copper plate beaten with silver, an inlaid box, a delicate painting of dancing girls at the Mughal court...»
Keys: eye, elephant
«I am forty two years old, life pursues me every day and pushes me on, no doubt towards death and oblivion. That’s the way it is and there’s nothing I can do but regret it when I think about it. If I don’t think about it it isn’t because I believe I have managed to settle myself and gain a period of tranquillity. On the contrary, I feel I have deceived myself and wasted my time in vain hopes...»
Keys: clock, day, time, night
Remembering Barcelona. A flash fiction by Wade Bell.
«Every day I eat the same soup at lunch time. Where I live, as opposed to where I used to live, that is, in the Gracia neighbourhood of Barcelona, lunch is more a snack than a satisfying meal...»
Keys: soup, time, place
«While she was opening the door to her apartment, she heard a sound. She stopped. Turned her head. Nothing had changed...»
Keys: flue, door, day
The Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino is the author of this short story on the power of suggestion. Published in Spanish at Badosa.com in March 2000, we are happy to offer the English translation by Clark M. Zlotchew. Originally included in his book El mejor de los mundos posibles (1976). Also available in Catalan, translated by Marta Rialp and Daniel Jordà.
«My friends say I am very suggestible. I think they’re right. As evidence of this, they bring up a little incident that I was involved in last Thursday...»
Keys: kitchen, suggestion, murderer, door
A columnist and a writer, Sam Silva is the author of this short work on Fayetteville.
«Summer has inclined its own fervent passion. Those fires in the Sun burn with their own bright muse sucked down by leafy foliage in a huge surround of trees whose circumference is Spring St., one of many narrow avenues...»
Keys: house, quiet, old
«Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be», said Ophelia. Fortunately, the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino unfolds a scientifically tested method for revealing any hidden aspects of the personality of men. Originally included in his book En defensa propia (1982). Translated from Spanish by Clark M. Zlotchew.
«A good system for revealing as yet unknown facets in man consists of placing the subject in a totally new situation and observing his reactions...»
Keys: house, crusade
A metamorphosis’ short story by Peter Miller.
«Speedy Barron had been on the bins for donkey’s and he really liked it. I mean, he really liked it, it was his vocation. He hardly ever talked about anything else. This was because he hardly ever thought about anything else...»
Keys: people, wife, rubbish
«Once upon a time, in a nearby land, there were (in plural) so many poets and wise men that on one occasion, in a meeting of bards, a lion came in, ate one, and nobody noticed...»
Keys: lion, verse, poets, mouth
The Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino unveils «not only the best, but the only possible method of defense against the scorpions». Originally included in his book En defensa propia (1982). Translated from Spanish by Clark M. Zlotchew. Also available in French.
«People are surprised, fearful and even indignant over the considerable proliferation of scorpions which threatens Buenos Aires, a city which until quite recently had been entirely free of this particular genus of arachnid...»
Keys: scorpion, method
This short story by the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino could be titled «The unending gift» like the Borges’ text. But we should write Gift with a big G like the Germans do, and use it in the German sense: poison. This funny treaty on the economics of the gift was translated from Spanish by Thomas C. Meehan and included in the book Sanitary Centennial, and Selected Short Stories (University of Texas Press, 1988). Also available in French, translated Michel Casana.
«It was about ten o’clock on a Saturday morning. My eldest son, who’s the devil incarnate, thoughtlessly scrawled a curlicue on the door of the neighboring apartment with a piece of wire. Nothing alarming or catastrophic, just a quick little flourish, most likely unnoticeable to anyone who wasn’t on the lookout for it...»
Keys: wife, door, train
A new short fiction by the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino about the weak frontier between will and whim. Originally included in his book Imperios y servidumbres (1972). Translated from Spanish by Clark M. Zlotchew.
«Without even shedding a tear, María Alejandra left me, making her way along Oro Street in the direction of Charcas. At first I sadly thought: ’She’s leaving for ever; it’s an irreversible act. It’s the end of a chapter in my life.’ Then the spiteful thoughts occurred to me...»
Keys: horn, bank
«I’m not very sociable, and often I forget about my friends. After letting two years go by, on one of those January days in 1979—they’re so hot—I went to visit a friend who suffers from somewhat unjustified fears...»
Keys: spider, leg, plan
The parakeets have taken over every civilized country, if we believe this short story by the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino. A metaphor of the alienation in the information society. Translated from Spanish by Gustavo Artiles and Alex Patterson.
«The nickname ‘parakeets’ is often given to those quite harmless, short-lived, tiny green orthoptera that, on summer nights, keep flying round and round lights...»
Keys: parakeets, behaviour, man
«Very few people are familiar with Ohm Alley. Its only block of any length runs near the corner of Triunvirato and De los Incas avenues. I live in a small balcony apartment facing the inner courtyard...»
Keys: artichoke, apartment
In this short story from the Argentinian Fernando Sorrentino a little being slips in the life of the main characters. This short story was translated from Spanish by Thomas C. Meehan and was included in the book Sanitary Centennial, and Selected Short Stories (University of Texas Press, 1988).
«For some time now, my bookshelves have been filled to capacity and overflowing. I should have had them enlarged, but wood and labor are expensive, and I prefer to put off these expenses in favor of other, more urgent ones...»
Keys: little, language, fact
Four short stories by Fernando Sorrentino. Featuring very bad kids.
«A few days ago I left the house and turned onto Calle Olazábal. I walked a few blocks and before I got to Calle Cuba I saw a little old lady with a nice, cheerful face. Then an envelope fell out of her purse but she didn’t notice. I hurried on, picked up the envelope without being noticed and found a wad of bills inside...»
Keys: spider, magician
Something magical in Spain. A short story by Geneviève Gaillard-Vanté.
«It was spring time, and all was new to her in Madrid. Between the crowd, after the play she went to see, on her program, he signed “the wicked destiny”...»
Keys: moment, eyes, destiny
Meeting the parents of our significant other probably is one of the toughest test we have to endure in this life. The short story in Spanish by Fernando Sorrentino, now available in English. Translated by Michele McKay Aynesworth. Also available in French.
«Everything in life has its season. And so the day came when Marina said, “I want you to meet my folks...”»
Keys: sea, head
«I live from others’ superstitions. It doesn’t bring in much money and the work is pretty hard.
«My first case was in a plant where they filled soda syphons. The owner believed, heaven knows why, that one of the thousands of syphons (but which one?) held an atomic bomb...»
Keys: one, tortoises, girl, devil
A short story by Fernando Sorrentino about the essence of things. Or is it about its attributes? Translated from the original in Spanish by Clark M. Zlotchew. Also available in French (translation by Michel Casana).
«On July 25, as I tried to hit letter A, I noticed a slight wart on the pinky of my left hand. On the 27th it seemed considerably larger. On the third of August, with the help of a jeweler’s loupe, I was able to discern its shape...»
Keys: elephant, tail, pinky
«Among the inhabitants of the apartment building on Paraguay Street, where I live, the spirit of emulation is quite intense...»
Keys: people, building, apartment, wife, neighbor, bear
Meet Boitus, «an exceptionally odd person». A short story by Fernando Sorrentino. Translated from Spanish into English by Jonathan Cole and into French by Geneviève Baudry. This short story was one of the finalists in the 23rd annual «Hucha de Oro» Competition (FUNCAS).
«Who hasn’t heard of the Insignia Financial Group, a lending institution that underwrites vehicles, agricultural and industrial machinery and, generally, all types of manufacturing products?...»
Keys: apartment, office
Looking at an old picture. A short story by Margaret Wilmot.
«The photo shows them young beyond imagining though my grandparents must already have been in their thirties. Maybe Grandpa was even then beginning to suggest they look for a larger house than the one he had built on a vacant lot opposite the Franklin School before he was married...»
«The 8th of November was my birthday. I figured the best way to celebrate was to strike up a conversation with someone I didn’t know...»
«After my graduation from high school I took a clerical job with a Buenos Aires insurance company. The job was extremely unpleasant and I found myself among some pretty annoying people with whom I had nothing in common, but as I was barely eighteen years old, I didn’t much care...»
Keys: me, sir
«I just read this in a newspaper: “After long months of futile attempts and several expeditions, a group of Argentine scientists has succeeded in capturing an Ushuaia rabbit, thought to be extinct for over a century. The scientists, headed by Dr. Adrián Bertoni, caught the rabbit in one of the many forests that surround the Patagonian city...”»
Keys: rabbit, cage
«According to very diverse—and always very reliable—sources, the ‘Chastisement by the Lambs’ is becoming increasingly common in several parts of Buenos Aires and the surrounding area.
All reports agree in their description of the Chastisement: suddenly, fifty white lambs appear—you could say ‘out of the blue’—and immediately charge towards their victim, obviously chosen beforehand. In a few short seconds they devour the person, leaving only a skeleton. As suddenly as they arrived, they then disperse—and pity anyone who tries to block their escape! Many fatal cases were recorded early on, before prospective heroes learned from the fate of their predecessors. These days, no one dares oppose the Chastisement...»
Keys: chastisement, lambs
«I have a friend who must be the sweetest, shyest person in the world. His name is brittle and ancient (Luke), his age modestly intermediate (forty). He is rather short and skinny, has a thin moustache and even thinner hair on his head. Since his vision is not perfect, he wears glasses: they are small, round and frameless...»
Keys: anyone, order, friend, bus
«Like everyone else, I have my own phobias and manias. I am obsessed by cleanliness. I like animals, but only in the zoo or in museums. I do not touch, nor do I allow myself to be touched by dogs or cats. I do everything I can to eliminate spiders or insects at home. I cannot even stand the zooming by of a fly or a mosquito. Fine...»
Keys: rat, time
«I tend to instantly accept any idea proposed by a sociologist or psychoanalyst during televised round tables. Emerging among eyeglasses, beards and pipe smoke, the deep and indisputable male voice propounded that modern humans have been objectified and that little by little, the consumer society has been consuming them...»
Keys: bicycle, time, horn, handlebars
«In the southeast region of the provincial plains of Buenos Aires, you might come across the Cubelli Lagoon, familiarly known as the “Lake of the Dancing Alligator.” This popular name is expressive and graphic, but — just as Doctor Ludwig Boitus established — it is inaccurate...»
Keys: crocodiles, lagoon
The difficulties of communication according to Fernando Sorrentino. A fragment from his novel Sanitarios centenarios that can be read independently. Translated from Spanish by Michele McKay Aynesworth.
«It happened when youth and optimism were my boon companions.
The breezes of spring came wafting down Matienzo street in the Las Cañitas barrio. Around 11:00 o’clock on a Thursday, the only day of the week that my teaching schedule left me free. I taught Language and Literature in more than one high school, I was twenty-seven and full of enthusiasm for books and imagination...»
Keys: señor, voice, telephone, girl, balcony
The Fictile Word is a collection of short stories in English.