Monday, 8 November 2021

Two Peruvian short stories

Links to these two excellent short stories arrived in my socials earlier this month and, immediately intrigued, I wanted to know more about the authors as it’s quite rare to find translations of Latin American literature here. Most of the books I review on Patreon are British, American or Australian. 

Investing time in these two tales was easy as they’re very short, Gunther Silva’s Luminous Fall’ and Pedro Novoa’s ‘The Dive’ each coming in at about 1000 words. 

Here’s a picture of Gunter Silva (left) and Pedro Novoa at the 2016 Trujillo Book Fair. 


Novoa died this year and belonged to the same generation as Silva, with the two men starting to publish in Lima in 2012. Pedro was from a poor family and while, for three years, he was a sailor in the Peruvian Navy learned to read detective and erotic novels, then decided to go out into the civilian world and become a writer. He left the military and got a place at university to study education. Gunter is from the jungle of Peru, comes from a middle-class background, studied law in Peru, then arts and humanities and a MFA in England.

It takes less than five minutes to read one of their wonderful stories. These very short devices of sentiment and yearning are unforgettable, containing the bare seeds of violence. It’s remarkable that they both turn on a hinge featuring rapid descent. Danger waits beside the door behind which these authors sit writing.

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I recently had a Muslim guy come over to buy books. I’ve been selling things in my collection in order to empty my bookcases (I have 13 in the house on four floors) and he was especially interested in nonfiction. He quickly took a book by Edward Said that I didn’t need. ‘Luminous Fall’ outlines a political settlement that exists in the shadow of the colonial project but it’s unconventional in a way that Said is now mainstream. In ‘The Dive’ the relations between the different people in the family of the diver are not crystal clear, on the other hand, so where in Silva’s story you can see the struggle for equality in a bare outline like a silhouette – one of those card cutouts you buy for children – in Novoa’s story the reason for the grandmother’s return to Japan is not itemised. 

Perhaps Novoa’s story loses some definition due to this lacuna, but on the other hand its dreaminess is paradoxically an anchor for the reader. A hazy future similarly renders Silva’s story deeply compelling, although here you’re aware of the politics that motivate the various characters who populate the story. This is a story sitting like a herald behind headlines. Both stories are very entertaining and rich.

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We’re hard-wired to respond to stories. Where language is innate storytelling is a species behaviour. It’s the stories we tell ourselves that determine the quality of our leaders and the shape of the path that leads to the future. Short stories are often overlooked because they’re considered entry vehicles to the more serious business of novels, or because they’re thought to be lightweight and somehow insubstantial. Yet they lie like beacons between the sea of poetry and the continent of the novel. 

Like a beach where we can find refreshment after work or where, like refugees, we can finally come ashore.

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1 comment:

George Henson said...

Please remember to name the translator; in the case of both stories, it's yours truly.