For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 40: July 29, 2013

Our world map of short stories

Robert Chandler on translating humor:

We speak of jokes being “barbed” or “pointed,” and jokes do indeed have something in common with darts or arrows. If a joke is to survive the journey into another language, if it is to hit the mark even when its cultural context can no longer be taken for granted, its point may need to be adjusted or somehow re-sharpened.

Our recommendations this week

Lessons for a Dead Hare

There is a nightclub located near the docks on the Hudson River. It operates next to one of the largest meatpacking warehouses in the city. It is known as The Mother, although some visitors call it by other, even more symbolic, names. On certain occasions the entertainment consists of watching men jerk off, as a demonstration of the greatest pleasure it is possible to achieve. At the end of the show, it is customary for a gigantic cow's heart to be brought onstage to be gnawed on furiously by the participants. In spite of what some may think, the presentation provokes the jocose more than the perverse. The scene seems somehow related to the work of the German artist Josephy Beuys.

We read it in A Public Space: 5.


Today I saw Ikenna Okoro, a man I had long thought was dead. Perhaps I should have bent down, grabbed a handful of sand, and thrown it at him, in the way my people do to make sure a person is not a ghost. But I am an educated man, a retired professor of seventy-one, and I am supposed to have armed myself with enough science to laugh indulgently at the ways of my people. I did not throw sand at him. I could not have done so even if I had wished to, anyway, since we met on the concrete grounds of the university bursary.
           I was there to ask about my pension, yet again. “Good day, Prof,” the dried-looking clerk, Ugwuoke, said. “Sorry, the money has not come in.”
           The other clerk, whose name I have now forgotten, nodded and apologized as well, while chewing on a pink lobe of kolanut. They were used to this. I was used to this. So were the tattered men who were clustered under the mango tree, talking loudly. The education minister has stolen the pension money, one fellow said. Another said that it was the vice chancellor, who deposited the money in personal high-interest accounts. They cursed the vice chancellor: his penis will quench, his children will not have children, he will die of diarrhea. When I walked up to them, they greeted me and shook their heads apologetically about the situation as if my professor-level pension is somehow more important than their messenger-level or driver-level pensions. They called me Prof, as most people do, as the hawkers sitting next to their trays under the tree did. “Prof! Prof! Come and buy good banana!”

We read it in Zoetrope: Vol. 8 No. 4.

A Brief History of Time

—You didn’t die.

—I didn’t die. Well, I basically died.

—Can you tell us about it?

—Of course. Like I said, so long as you survive, then pain, death, loneliness and time are no longer frightening—of course you can talk about it. I’m saying later on I got hungry and thirsty, mostly thirsty; later the hunger sort of went away. After drinking all that alcohol, water was taking its revenge on me. There was no water to drink and I had no way of drinking my piss, and after a day… maybe less than a day, my only sense of time was of its length, unending and unchanging, nothing else; day and night no longer existed for me. I’d lost a lot of blood through my hands and feet, and I was utterly exhausted. I slept and woke, woke and slept, my body stiff as if it were rusted in place. In my dreams I felt like I would catch fire, like my whole body was smoking: the corners of my eyes, my lips, throat, guts and hair, even my soul. Do you believe in the soul?

We read it in Chutzpah! 8.