corner image   The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Twenty-Five

3 Short Short Stories by Alex Epstein
Planet by Matt Everett
Trolley Number 75 by Gianni Rodari
More from Pieces for Small Orchestra by Norman Lock
5 stories/150 words by R.E. Hartman
Cats & Fish, & Because We Are Precious & Brave by Kuzhali Manickavel
Our Cunning Enemy by Kenneth Losey


3 Short Short Stories

by Alex Epstein

A Short and Sad Imaginary Guidebook
for the Traveler to Prague

As in every other city, the snow that falls in Prague is very precise. If you walk the banks of the Vltava River at dusk, you'll discover that the city of Prague has the attributes of a postcard: a postcard with a photograph of the city of Prague on it. Of course, there is always the eleventh measure: at the edge of Pařížská Street sits a beggar who lost a leg in a struggle with a streetcar. He has never been seen smoking a cigarette. Also, on the escalator of the Metro, the women ascending are more radiant than those descending. In none of the bookstores of this enchanted city is sold the children's book from which the Maharal read to his Golem, before putting him to bed. In none of Prague's streets do crystal streetcars travel. In the vast pear orchard on the slope descending from Strahov Monastery, the elderly walk by in couples, gathering fallen pears into bags from the Kenvelo department store. By the way, the jazz in Prague is excellent, the alcohol cheap, the public transportation efficient and easy. Everywhere there is graffiti smeared across the walls. Certainly in one of them it is written that in Prague, the tourist, like everyone else, is a marionette pulling its own strings.

The Wonders of the Labyrinth

"You probably think she is still waiting for her Theseus to come back for her, as he promised." They stood at the entrance to the labyrinth and looked at the slight old woman who sat there on a squeaky rocking chair, knitting a scarf. The tour-guide started to move forward into the labyrinth, but the second man, the one whose coat was dripping with rain, was still searching in his pockets for a coin to give her, wondering from where was she so familiar to him, had he heard of her before in some ancient tale. Of course, while they wandered in the corridors he stopped thinking about her. Of all the wonders of the labyrinth, what most impressed him were the many echoes, the torches dripping spots of light and shadow on the walls, and also one yellowish page placed on the floor right near the turn in the maze which led to the Minotaur's Hall, upon which was written, "Careful, Fresh Paint."

The Angel that Brod and Kafka Dreamt Of

Once, Max Brod dreamt of an angel who had only one wing. The angel knocked on Brod's door and asked him where Kafka lived. Max Brod gave the angel directions and thought in his dream that the one-winged angel was the most horrifying thing he had ever seen. The next day Brod met Kafka and Kafka told him that the previous night he had dreamt of an angel with no wings, who had asked for Max Brod's address.

(translated from Hebrew by Rachel Tzvia Back)

Alex Epstein was born in 1971 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and has been living in Israel since the age of 8. Epstein is the author of three collections of short stories and three novels. In 2003, Epstein was awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Literature. He writes literary reviews for several newspapers and teaches creative writing. His stories have been published in English, Dutch, Italian, Czech and Russian. These stories are from his most recent book, Blue Has No South (Am-Oved Publishing house, 2005).

Rachel Tzvia Back, who is a poet, translator and professor of literature, was born in the USA and has lived in Israel since 1980. Her poetry collections include Azimuth (Sheep Meadow Press) and The Buffalo Poems (Duration Press) and, most recently, On Ruins & Return (Shearsman Books). Her translations of Hebrew poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

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stories copyright by author 2008 all rights reserved
translation copyright 2008 by Rachel Tzvia Back all rights reserved