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Contemporary Latin American Short Stories

Selected and with an introduction by Pat McNees

One of the anthology's earliest supporters was Joyce Carol Oates, who called it "A rich, varied, and highly rewarding collection."

Striking in its imagery, its history, and its breathtaking scope, Latin American fiction has finally come into its own throughout the world. Collected in this volume from the period when Latin American fiction first "bloomed" in North America are 35 classic contemporary short stories by 35 of the finest writers in Latin America at the time, including:

Jorge Luis Borges
Carlos Fuentes
Julio Cortázar
Miguel Angel Asturias
Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Jorge Amado
Octavio Paz
Juan Bosch
José Donoso
Horacio Quiroga
Mario Vargas Llosa
Abelardo Castillo
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Clarice Lispector
Mario Benedetti
Manuel Puig
María Luisa Bombal
and many more

Review on Library Thing
'This collection of 35 stories by Latin American authors may stretch the definition of "contemporary" a bit, since some of the stories were published in the early 20th century, but in the contemporary context of 1974, most of these authors and their works would have been unknown to an English-speaking audience. The collection includes some heavy hitters (Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Gabríel Garcia Márquez, Mario Varga Llosa) as well as many authors that were unfamiliar to me, from all over Latin America. The stories themselves are really strong -- ranging in length from just a few pages to entire novellas, they include magical realism, formal structure, humor, tragedy, and political metaphors. Some particular favorites of mine were the extremely weird "Letter to a Young Lady in Paris," by Julio Cortázar (so many bunnies!); the brooding and atmospheric "The Doll Queen," by Carlos Fuentes; "Nest, Door, Neighbors," by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (with the added bonus of being translated by the author, which brings in some excellent effects), and "Paseo," by José Donoso, which I still can't get out of my head.'

From the introduction to the current edition:
"I collected the stories that appear in this anthology a few years after Latin American fiction first appeared on literary radar screens in the United States. The Chilean novelist José Donoso explains the 'boom' in new Latin American Fiction that followed this way: 'We were reacting very strongly against the naturalism that had preceded us -- writers who had attempted to recount the faithful history of each country, the ecology and the ethnography. That earlier generation was putting names on things, was seeing them for the first time. They gave us this spoon, this knife, this fork, this piece of bread....We scrambled it all up, put it in motion, and gave it shape.'--kristykay22

"What followed was perhaps less a boom in experimental writing and 'magical realism' than it was a boom in reading and awareness -- an increase in 'consumption' of Latin America culture, at home and abroad, as John King puts it in a recent study of Latin American literature. Some Latin American writers who in the 1950s might have hoped to sell 2,000 copies of a novel were selling tens of thousands of copies by the late 1960s. Latin Americans had suddenly begun reading their own writers, and Europe and the United States soon followed. One side effect of this boom in Latin American fiction, writes critic Jean Franco, is that Latin American women in the '90s 'are writing in unprecedented numbers and giving a very different account of themselves than the stereotypes of ideal woman, prostitute, and witch so often found in the literature of the past.'

"As an editor at Fawcett Books, I had overseen the publication of several successful fiction anthologies and was shocked in the 1970s to realize how little Latin American fiction was available in this country, except in small literary journals. Fawcett agreed to issue a mass market anthology if I could put one together. I spent the next two years reading everything Latin American I could get my hands on. When the collection came out, critics (and North American novelists) praised it, teachers assigned it, and casual readers picked it up out of curiosity. What most warmed my heart was seeing it for sale in airports, the perfect place to discover it -- because these stories take you to another world, by turns seductive, fantastic, funny, and exotic, yet totally human. Through word of mouth the book has not only remained in print but is being issued in this quality paperback edition. In a collection full of vitality, you are about to enjoy the best short stories of Latin America's classic contemporary fiction writers."

-- Pat McNees

About some of the authors included:
Understanding Is the Proof of Error: Will the Real Clarice Lispector Please Stand Up? (Katrina Dodson, Believer Magazine, June/July 2018)
New Islands: And Other Stories by María Luisa Bombal. See 1982 review: The Beginnings of Latin Baroque (Ronaldo de Feo, New York Times)
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

 

For further reading in Latin American short fiction, check out:
More Books, Fewer Weapons.” Literary Hub's reading list for Jair Bolsonaro (suggesting to a right-wing politician that books would be more useful than guns): Authors Alicia Yánez Cossío (Ecuador), Angélica Gorodischer (Argentina), Hilda Hilst (Brazil), Amparo Dávila (Mexico), Emma Reyes (Colombia).

The Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories, edited by Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria

Short Stories by Latin American Women: The Magic and the Real, ed. by Celia Correas Zapata

The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories, ed. by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega.

 

To be continued, when I grab a minute!