For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 49: November 11, 2013

Spotlight: Saadat Hasan Manto

The undisputed master of the modern Indian short story.

Salman Rushdie

A selection of stories from one of Pakistan/India’s greatests.

Tom McCarthy on addressing new technologies in writing:

The argument that the advent of the Internet somehow marks a Telecom Year Zero after which nothing will ever be the same can be made only by ignoring the actual history of literature. Look at Kafka’s obsession with telephones; or the way the phonograph, for Bram Stoker, mirrors the vampire as a machine for bringing the dead to life (or, conversely, storing the living in dead form); or at the obsessive attention Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is forced to pay to ink and desks and messengers. Don’t both “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet,” with their vital plot-devices of switched or undelivered letters, address anxieties about the postal system? The best writers have always understood that to write is to both grapple with and, to some extent, allegorize the very regime of technological mediation without which writing wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Our recommendations this week

The Freeloader

That was Bavnik. Clearly someone in a constate state of overcoming the body would be thoroughly interesting to him. He could learn something from a man like that. Someone who thought it was fine to let the wind blow through his hair, let the cold, wet wind soak his clothes and his body, who ran his tongue over his lips because the taste of the ocean was so “goddamn delicious,” who sniffed his hands at night to smell the sea. Someone who thought it was eough to be alive and in good health, who went on his joyful way between God’s heaven and God’s earth and thought it was idiotic that people caused themselves so much trouble, and laughed out loud at them, and sat there eternally with his beatific smile, quietly enjoying the water and the sky and the clouds and the fields, and let the rain soak him through without noticing it and then said “I think I’m wet” and laughed. Someone who could eat an expensive meal and drink expensive jenever better than anyone in Holland and then, at other times, on his long walks (because he didn’t always sit around, every so often he spent days at a time on his feet), he’d eat dry rolls day in and day out and be moved to tears because out in the open “a piece of bread like this can taste so good.”

We read it in Amsterdam Stories.

A Strange Murderer

“He spoke jerkily, as though in a delirium, for some time harping on the helplessness of me, and all the time a sullen fear shone in his eyes. His dry, ascetic face darkened as he said, hissing through his teeth:

“‘Just you think, sir; here at this very minute, I can strike you down dead! Just think of that! Who can forbid me to do it? What's to stop me? Nothing at all–nothing....’

“He was punished for the murder of that girl by three years of prison–the mildness of the punishment being due, he explained, to the skill of his advocate–whome he did not hesitate to vilify: ‘A young one, with dishevelled hair, a bawler. He kept on saying to the jury: “Who could possibly say a bad word against this man? Not one of the witnesses has been able to. Moreover it is admitted that the dead woman was half-witted and debauched.” Oh, those lawyers! It's all tomfoolery, waste of time. I'll be defended from myself before the crime if you like, but once I've committeed it I don't want anyone to help me. You can hold me while I stand still, but once I have started running you can't catch me! If I run I will go on running until I fall down with exhaustion. But prison!–tomfoolery, an idle man's job, too.


Of Anguish and Illusions

Having decided to live his forbidden dreams, Estalín Monsalvo took off on a trip to the Caribbean Islands in the company of his mistress and returned just in time, one month before the anniversary of his birth, to be pardoned by his wife and die a Christian death in her legal arms.

Lola Caracol, employed in the oldest of professions, wanted to celebrate her forty years of life frolicking in her bed so that posterity would remember that she had died as she had lived. She waited in vain for the fatal outcome to arrive, drinking champagne with her regular and occasional clients alike, but at the precise moment, the tension was so overwhelming that she became paralyzed and had to abandon her trade.

Doña Deidamia Luceros, known as the “virgin widow,” longed to die in order to be reunited with her husband, whom fate had snatched away the day of their wedding some seventy years before. On her birthday she bathed in scented herbs, donned her wedding dress, placed the wax crown of citrus blossoms on her white head, laid herself down in her virginal coffin, and passed on to a better life with a placid expression on her face and infinite hopes.