Friday, 23 November 2012

Spanish Short Stories 1 / Cuentos hispánicos 1

edited by Jean Franco
First published 23 November 2012 @ Saffron Walden Lessons

Finally, I made it to the end!

My first attempt to read this book was in 2006. Alas, I got stuck in the very beginning; to be precise, in the middle of the first story, Emma Zunz. That was frustrating, for I read this story before (not in Spanish, though). Had I known then that this is one of the easier stories in the book, I would be even more frustrated.

Seven years later, one of them living in Spain: yes, apparently I can read Spanish literature. It took me “only” about two months to go through the eight stories. And then, without parallel text, it would take even longer. The overall mood of these stories is fluctuating from nostalgia to despair, with many shades of melancholy, pain and desire to kill in between. Is this selection supposed to be representative of twentieth century Hispanic fiction? My favourite stories are El presupuesto and La romería.

  1. Jorge Luis Borges, Emma Zunz (translated by Donald A. Yates)
    Classic Borges story told in his laconic, matter-of-fact, almost emotionless style.
  2. Mario Benedetti, El presupuesto / The Budget (translated by Gerald Brown)
    I couldn’t help noticing certain parallels with Gogol’s Шинель here. The Second Clerk even buys himself an overcoat (el sobretodo) in anticipation of salary increase.
  3. H. A. Murena, El coronel de caballería / The Cavalry Colonel (translated by Gordon Brotherston)
  4. Gabriel García Márquez, Monólogo de Isabel viendo llover en Macondo / Isabel’s Soliloquy: Watching the Rain in Macondo (translated by Richard Southern)
    Originally, written as a part of One Hundred Years of Solitude but not included in the final version.
  5. Juan Carlos Onetti, Bienvenido, Bob / Welcome, Bob (translated by Donald T. Shaw)
    I spend far too many days reading this story, thanks to the author’s love for long sentences.
  6. Camilo José Cela, La romería (translated by Gordon Brotherston)
    An outing of a middle-class family dominated by two harpies. Absolutely brilliant.
  7. Carlos Martínez Moreno, Paloma / The Pigeon (translated by Giovanni Pontiero)
    En la ciudad de un millón de habitantes hay ya más de cien locos que crían palomas.
  8. Juan Rulfo, Talpa (translated by J.A. Chapman)
    I liked Rulfo’s writing style, but the story itself is rather depressing, even by the standards of this book.
Esa paz ya resuelta y casi definitiva que pesaba en nuestra Oficina, dejándonos conformes con nuestro pequeño destino y un poco torpes debido a nuestra falta de insomnios, se vio un día alterada por la noticia que trajo el Oficial Segundo. Era sobrino de un Oficial Primero del Ministerio y resulta que ese tío — dicho sea sin desprecio y con propiedad — había sabido que allí se hablaba de un presupuesto nuevo para nuestra Oficina. Como en el primer momento no supimos quién o quiénes eran los que hablaban de nuestro presupuesto, sonreímos con la ironía de lujo que reservábamos para algunas ocasiones, como si el Oficial Segundo estuviera un poco loco o como si nosotros pensáramos que él nos tomaba por un poco tontos.
Mario Benedetti, El presupuesto
This settled, almost absolute, peace that weighed down on our office, leaving us resigned to our little destinies and somewhat sluggish on account of not losing any sleep, was shattered one day by some news brought by the Second Clerk. He was a nephew of a Head Clerk in the Ministry, and it turned out that this uncle (speaking properly and without disrespect) had learnt that there was talk of a new budget for our office. As we didn’t know at first what person or persons had been talking about our budget, we smiled with that particularly luxurious irony that we reserved for certain occasions, as if the Second Clerk was a bit mad, or as if we realized that he thought we were a bit stupid.
Mario Benedetti, The Budget

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