I have always liked short stories but even more than that I like very short stories, tales that are barely one to five pages long. The success of their first edition of Sudden Fiction led the editors to the idea to do the same for international fiction that they had previously done for American Fiction. The collection Sudden Fiction International presents 60 very short stories from authors from all over the world. I’ve started to read the collection over the last few weeks and I’m amazed. It’s a fantastic collection. Not only is each and every story wonderful, it also introduces the reader to authors from many different countries. The result is rich, varied and vibrant. Reading and discovering these tales feels like it would have felt to be offered a huge collection of marbles as a child. Each of them is round and perfect but they all have another pattern, another colour, a different transparency.
In addition to the stories there is some background information on the authors provided at the end of the book. Most of the times the information is given by the respective translators.
I know that many people are reluctant to pick up short stories. They don’t know how to read them, feel they cannot immerse themselves as much as they want. I believe that the very short story could be helpful because it can be read and re-read in one sitting without too much effort.
I have read quite a few of the stories already and with the exception of Cortázar’s story, I liked them all. The two which did stand out the most so far were Buzzati’s The Falling Girl and Kawabata’s The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket. The first is the story of a young girl which jumps from a skyscraper but falls very slowly and has enough time to talk to the people she passes by. It’s a sociological look at contemporary Italy. Kawabata’s story is a thing of rare beauty. A man sees children at night, each of them carrying a lantern in another colour. The children are looking for insects and one of them finds a grasshopper. The story offers a nostalgic look at childhood and the way time passes so quickly and dreams die too soon.
For those interested I noted a few of the authors, stories and countries they represent. Although this is the second tome, there are still quite a lot of American stories in this one and many from other English-speaking countries too.
Dino Buzzati – The Falling Girl – Italy
Yasunary Kawabata – The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket – Japan
Colette – The Other Wife – France
Rodrigo Rey Rosa – The Book – Guatemala
Bessie Head – Looking for the Rain God – Botswana
Jamaica Kincaid – Girl– Antigua
Joyce Carol Oates – The Boy – US
Sergei Dovlatov – Katya – Russia
Feng Jica – The Street Sweeping Show – China