The Author and the Reader
A journalist asks the author, when you write, do you think about the reader? The author thinks of nothing else. In his thoughts the reader is a prince cloaked in dazzling, embroidered fabric. His kingdom is a colony of the Earth in outer space. Because he is a prince, his gestures are indolent and disdainful. With a disdainful gesture, he casts aside the Arabic edition of the author's work. With an indolent gesture, he summons the palace librarian and demands the German translation.
The prince is a polyglot and a perceptive reader. He reads and is moved: how is it possible that from so far away in time and space another man can express my feelings in this way? Meanwhile, the author has not answered the question which is posed to him once again in a louder voice. Somewhat startled, the author quickly answers: no, of course not, I never think about the reader, a true artist thinks only about his work. Then the journalist leaves, and the author remains very sad thinking
that he is not a true artist and that he would like to be one.
Always trapped within these four walls, inventing worlds for myself to forget about the routine, to forget about this flat undimensional life, limited by the unavoidable rectangle of the page.
I run toward the beach. If only the waves had left a small barrel of powder on the sand, even
wet powder, a knife, some nails, and a collection of pipes, or some simple wooden boards.
I could use those things to construct a novel. But what am I supposed to do with these wet
paragraphs, with these metaphors encrusted with barnacles and mussels, and the remains of
another sad literary shipwreck.
Literary Workshop I (for Mempo Giardinelli)
Your zeal for the short short story is unquestionable; however, we believe you should go back and study the great writers. Although the three texts which you sent us are not yet perfect, they reflect great vitality. Please stop by our office and pick them up as soon as possible. They are demanding and violent, they refuse to accept the decision of our advisors, and moreover, it is so hard to satisfy their voracious appetite.
Respect for Genres
A man wakes up next to a woman whom he doesn't recognize. In a detective story, the reason could be alcohol, drugs, or a bump on the head. In a science fiction story,
the man would eventually understand that he is in a parallel universe. In an existentialist novel, the lack of recognition would be related to a feeling of alienation, of the absurd. In an experimental text, the mystery would go unsolved and the situation would be handled with the turn of a phrase. The editors become more and more demanding, and the man realizes, in despair, that if he doesn't manage to fit himself into a genre quickly, he runs the risk of remaining painfully and forever unpublished.
Following the track of stains can be dangerous. How do we know if they lead to the corpse or to the murderer? (But the stains are ink blots and lead to the word end.)
Run for Your Lives!
Run for your lives, the letter hunters ar# h#re!
A story of mine, which I never wrote, is included in an anthology. The subject is the eruption of a volcano. The lava flows in burning streams. The director of the show is in no hurry. Her daydreaming is exasperating. The editor of the anthology confesses to me that the story was written by another writer, in my style. It's so good that I agree to author it. Since we're all going to burn to death anyway, what does it matter?
Clear the Decks
The crew clears the decks for the shipwreck drill. The passengers don their life jackets and board the lifeboats. (Children first, followed by the women.) The conventions of short fiction would lead the reader to expect the simulacrum to become reality: now is when the ship should go down, but instead, the opposite occurs. The simulacrum invades everything, taking control of the actions, the desires and expressions of the crew, as well as
the ship's course. Now the entire ship is a fake, and the sea as well. Even I myself pretend to write.
The spirit of the author is captured in these humble words: "Help, help, get me out of here."
(translated by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan)
Ana María Shua was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951. She
published her first book at the age of sixteen and has published thirty
books, to date, including four novels, three collections of short short
stories, two collections of short stories for adults, and books of
children's literature, as well as books of humor and anthologies of
legends and folklore. Two of her books have
been translated into English, The Book of Memories (University of New Mexico Press, 1998)
and Patient (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1997).
"A Selection from 'Other Possibilities'" was excerpted from Casa de Geishas
(Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1992).
Rhonda Dahl Buchanan is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University
of Louisville where she teaches Spanish language classes and undergraduate and
graduate courses on Spanish American literature. She is the editor of a collection of essays
on Shua's works, El río de los sueños: Aproximaciones
críticas a la obra de Ana María Shua (Washington, D.C.: Interamer
Collection, Organization of American States, 2001) and
serves on the editorial board of several journals, including El Cuento
en Red, a Mexican online journal dedicated to the short short story.
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story copyright by author 2001 all rights reserved
translation copyright by translator 2001 all rights reserved