Over weekend I read four short stories. You should read them too.

Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, The New Yorker, December 2011.  Just one word: Fun.  Here’s the review of the story at Mookse.  And here is excerpt from good review by Reader’s Quest:

… I think that a possible key can be found in the sentence that followed Verna’s aphoristic second thoughts: “Why should any human being be judged by something that was done in another time, so long ago that it might be centuries?” The root of the word aphorism is boundary, and I think that Atwood is using cliché and aphorism to light up a flashing neon sign (cliché?) that points to a question of memory, judgment, history, and the boundaries of good and evil.

If Reader’s Quest is right, then story may be indirect homage to Ile Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin, that has a very similar theme.

Miracle by Tope Folarin.  Last line: “My sight miraculously returned.”  Wonderful, classical-style short story published in Transition.  Elegant writing, straight ending.  Won the 2013 Caine Prize.  Author wears thick glasses.

Foreign Aid by Pede Hollist, shortlisted for Caine Prize.  Sympathetic description of Sierra Leonean returning home to visit after 20 years in the United States.  Great reading for a class dealing with contemporary African diaspora.

Yu Hua’s short story Victory in The New Yorker.  The full story is here.  Gripping in portrayal of marriage, but the least compelling of the four, for me.  Betsey at Mookse and the Gripes has an excellent review.

“Victory” reads easily as an allegory. A somewhat dictatorial husband who holds all the power in a marriage finds that his marriage lacks life. He is drawn to a mysterious young woman in a red dress, exchanging chaste meetings and flirtatious letters. But it is the wife who in the end has the passion that can counter the husband’s dreams of perfection. Here it is the wife who stands in for the people of the nation, while the woman in the red dress represents, perhaps, the emptiness of Maoist idealism. One wonders if Yu Hua is suggesting that the people of China must find a way bring their social contract to life, as if for now, life as a Chinese citizen is settling for “just living.”

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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