The World of the Short Story. A Twentieth Century Collection. Selected and edited by Clifton Fadiman

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Ed. Wings Books, año 1990. Tapa dura con sobrecubierta. Tamaño 24 x 16 cm. Estado: Usado muy bueno. Cantidad de páginas: 848

The world of the short storyThis book was designed to place before the reader a generous selection of our century’s finest short stories, drawn (as it turned out) from sixteen countries.

Reading or rereading many hundreds of stories, I asked myself two main questions. First, how good is this of its kind? Second, regardless of kind, at how deep a level of feeling and insight is the writer operating? What it boils down to is that in my judgment each story had to be both interesting and of high literary merit. These simple criteria are subjective. I have not tried to “represent” all the countries that produce short stories. An anthology of enjoyable reading should not be the literary equivalent of the United Nations General Assembly.

About three-quarters of the contents is by writers using the English language. That is partly because no honest anthologist can or should resist the normal pressures of his own culture, and partly because I believe that the outstanding work in the field has come from England, Ireland, Canadá, English-speaking South África, and the United States.

No anthology can avoid being a covert personal statement. The reader or critic may well issue a counterstatement by declaring that he does not like some or perhaps any of the selections. But to go beyond that, to prescribe precisely what the contents should have been, is hardly useful. Better that he become an anthologist himself.

This collection is intended not for theoreticians or historians of the short story but for the curious, intelligent reader. That reader may notice the omission of several classic and justly honored names —Sherwood Anderson, Erskine Caldwell, Walter de la Mare, to mention three at random. With the limited space at my disposal, and with respect to members of an older generation, I had to ask myself the question, ¿Does the writer, however important his contribution to the history and art of the short story, still speak to us with the urgency that once animated his voice? If the answer seemed doubtful or negative, I reluctantly omitted him or her.

The world of the short story2The fact is that there is more mortality built into a good short story than into a novel of equal literary value. If Sherwood Anderson fades on my ear (though this may not be true for others) it should be remembered that in fifty years or fewer such fine contemporary talents as Trevor and Updike may be equally diminished. Not
many short stories resist the tooth of time: there is only one “The Dead”, one “A simple Heart”, one “Death of Ivan Ilyich”. And, as I name these classic titles, I realize also that all these are quite long—novellas rather than short stories.

Thus one of the greatest names of our century, Thomas Mann, is not here represented. Of the novella he is a master, but I have not felt, after many rereadings, that his shorter tales afford a true measure of his genius. The same is true of Joseph Conrad and the greatly admired Isak Dinesen, but in her case I must not disguise my sense that what once seemed so startling now often sounds mannered, even at times pretentious.

One other notable omission: J. D. Salinger. My only excuse for not representing a talent so original and so enduring in its appeal is that permission to reprint him was not granted.

The stories are arranged by the birth dates of the authors, from early to late. The device, as convenient as any other, is not intended to illustrate the “evolution” of the short story: fiction is not a branch of biology. It does, however, throw into some relief the alterations the form has under-gone in our century, the thematic
terrains it has abandoned or invaded, the emergence of new styles — or perhaps merely fashions.

The aleatoric mode, I think, is the most pleasantly suited to the reading of an anthology. But the chronological approach, if we care to adopt it, does help us to recognize, as by lightning flashes and in a way denied to formal history books, certain shifts in our perception of reality since World War I. As human beings and as
writers Somerset Maugham and Donald Barthelme have basically common interests. But the ways in which they interpret their transient and fugitive worlds, the words and rhythms they choose for the purpose of fixing them on paper — these stand in bewildering contrast or even in opposition.

Thus any collection like this one reinforces our sense of the short story’s mutations over the years, as well as of the manner in which fiction glancingly reflects changes in our view of the real world. There is an excellent annual anthology called “Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards”. Its reaclers will seek in vain any story even remotely recalling O. Henry or O. Henry’s attitude toward life.

As we read our way from between the wars to our own day we begin to recognize in concrete examples the short story’s many transformations, the new pathways upon which it has adventured. These have all been clearly pointed out by critics. We note at once that the “modern” story, perhaps taking its cue from the French Symbolists, compels the reader to do some of the work. It relies on suggestion, on implication. Its form (here, of course, Hemingway is the master and before him Chejov) is determined by what it leaves out. Thus in a way we ourselves write -that is, we imagine- what the ancient masters -a Scott, a Mérimée, a Poe- supplied for us.

Many of the earlier stories in these pages give the reader the sense of closure. An episode or a character is developed in the course of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some of the later stories reject the notion of closure. Experience is an unfinished business, fragmentary, disjointed. Of the first school John O’Hara and Irwin Shaw are perhaps fair examples, as Ann Beattie is of the second.

Serial narrative, though never abandoned, begins to give ground to broken or distorted sequences; extreme states of mind engage many writers; “magic realism” and other visionary approaches compete with more traditional techniques; Poe’s “single effect” doctrine loses its appeal, often replaced by a dynamic of ambiguity; humor darkens;
the simple concern with telling a tale is with some writers qualified by the concept of the short story as an experimental laboratory; and, perhaps most important, women exert upon the form a more decisive (and salutary) influence than ever before.

At this writing the short story, as has been generally remarked, is enjoying a boom in both quality and quantity. No one is quite sure why this should be so. Along with others, V. S. Pritchett theorizes that “it is the glancing form of fiction that seems to be right for the nervousness and restlessness of modern life”. Along somewhat the
same melancholy lines Frank O’Connor reflects that, as compared with the novel, the short story expresses “an intense awareness of human loneliness”.

However that may be, it is apparent that the short story has come a long way since the French critic Jules Lemaítre described Maupassant as “an almost irreproachable writer in a genre that is not”. The genre today is no longer, as T. O Beachcroft once considered it, “at best a very modest art”. At its highest level (and I think many of the following pages offer fair evidence) it meets the challenge laid down by Kay Boyle: “to invest a brief sequence of events with reverberating human significance by means of style, selection and ordering of detail, and -most important of all- to present the whole action in such a way that it is at once picture of some phase of experience, and a sudden illumination of one of the perennial moral and psychological paradoxes which lie at the heart of “la condition humaine”.

Clifton Fadiman

Contents
Foreward
1- A. V. Laider, by Max Beerbohm
2- The Other Wife, by Colette
3- The Facts of Life, by Somerset Maugham
4- Dusky Ruth, by A. E. Coppard
5- The Dead Man, by Horacio Quiroga
6- In the Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka
7- Odour of Chrysanthemums, by D. H. Lawrence
8- The Fly, by Katherine Mansfield
9- He, by Katherine Anne Porter
10- Thirst, by Ivo Andric
11- My First Goose, by Isaac Babel
12- The Greatest Man in the World, by James Thurber
13- The Piano, by Aníbal Monteiro Machado
14- Babylon Revisited, by Francis Scott Fitzgerald
15- The Evening Sun, by William Faulkner
16- Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, by Jorge Luis Borges
17- Mysterious Kôr, by Elizabeth Bowen
18- First Love, by Vladimir Nabokov
19- My Old Man, by Ernest Hemingway
20- The Door, by E. B. White
21- Lovers of the Lake, by Sean O’Faolain
22- The Camberwell Beauty, by V. S. Pritchett
23- Men, by Kay Boyle
24- A Cap of Steve, by Morley Callaghan
25- The Drunkard, by Frank O’Connor
26- Cheap in August, by Graham Greene
27- The Dead Fiddler, by Isaac Bashevis Singer
28- Flight, by John O’Hara
29- The Patented gate and the Mean Hamburger, by Robert Penn Warren
30- The end of the world, by Dino Buzzati
31- Dead of a Traveling Salesman, by Eudora Welty
32- The Five-Forty-Eight, by John Cheever
33- The Living, by Mary Lavin
34- The Vertical Ladder, by William Sansom
35- Medal from Jerusalem, by Irwin Shaw
36- The Southern Thruway, by Julio Cortázar
37- The Jewbird, by Bernard Malamud
38- A Silver Dish, by Saul Bellow
39- The Interior Castle, by Jean Stafford
40- Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland, by Carson McCullers
41- The Gift of the Prodigal, by Peter Taylor
42- One off the Short List, by Doris Lessing
43- The Supper, by Tadeusz Borowski
44- Going Ashore, by Mavis Gallant
45- Letter from His Father, by Nadine Gordimer
46- Miriam, by Truman Capote
47- Three Million Yen, by Kukio Mishima
48- The Artificial Nigger, by Flannery O’Connor
49- Nikishka’s Secrets, by Yuri Kazakov
50- Death Constant Beyond Love, by Gabriel García Márquez
51- The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick
52- A Complicated Nature, by William Trevor
53- The Hitchhiking Game, by Milan Kundera
54- Game, by Donald Barthelme
55- Bardon Bus, by Alice Munro
56- Pigeon Feathers, by John Updike
57- Eli, the Fanatic, by Philip Roth
58- How I Contemplated the World fromthe Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again, by Joyce Carol oates
59- The Man from Mars, by Margaret Atwood
60- A Small, Good tHING, by Raymond Carver
61- Weekendf, by Ann Beattie
62- The Schreuderspitze, by Mark Helprin