Monday, June 1, 2015

MAY is Short Story Month (Part II)


SIX FEET OF THE COUNTRY by Nadine Gordimer

A peculiar story involving a white couple, who owns a farm 10 miles out of Johannesburg, and their black farmhands. Unknown to the couple, their farmhands had been smuggling family members and relatives out from Rhodesia into their farm. Until one day the latest refugee succumbed to the elements while walking the long treacherous miles. The owner, informed belatedly, feared for the health of his farmhands. He sent for the health authorities and the police. When the autopsy was done, the finding was pneumonia, the relatives wanted to have the body back for a proper burial, but it turned out missing. The black farmhands appealed to their employer to intercede for them in retrieving the body, and, later, the sum they paid for the alleged exhumation back.

Every day since the owner dogged the said authorities for the injustice done to his farmhands. Little did he know that he stood as a bridge for the black people in winning against apartheid pressed upon them even in death.

Nadine Gordimer was an exceptional writer, who gave us another look at the apartheid times in South Africa from a different angle. The words were lightly written, but the reader can feel the heaviness of the subject.

Rating: 4 stars

THE END OF THE PARTY by Graham Greene

This story is shockingly sad. Nine-year-old twins Francis and Peter share an uncommon bond. Peter is the strong one, who nevertheless looks after the ever-anxious Francis. It is curious how twins share not only dreams but thoughts and feelings as well, often effortlessly.

With the distinctiveness of fear and the complex relations between twins, Green meticulously described how a crippling fear dominating one twin can instinctively drive the other one to protect. And by way of Francis’s fear of attending parties and playing hide and seek in the dark, Greene also poignantly pointed out that the death of one twin becomes a transfer of fear that may go on and on for the other.

Graham Greene used foreshadowing heavily on the subject; even so, he was a compelling writer. His gentle invitation to self-reflection and emphatic observations were possessive.

Rating: 3 stars

THE BURNING CITY by Hjalmar Söderberg

A framed canvas of a burning city held the curiosities of a young boy of four. Having no concept of time yet, he had trouble accepting the facts that the burning city in the frame burned a long, long time ago. After more questions and much pondering, he laughed at the idea that neither he nor his father has yet existed when that city burned. Truly it was just a jest crafted by his father, because if the moon exists in the picture, like how it exists today in the present, then he was just probably somewhere else when the tragedy happened.

This is quite a charming story. The innocence and logic of a young mind are so precious to behold.

Rating: 3 stars

THE GUEST by Albert Camus

Set in Algeria, back during the French colonization. Daru, a schoolmaster, was visited by Balducci, an old gendarme from El Ameur. With him was an Arab prisoner that Daru needs to transfer to Tanguit, east of the plateau, on the morrow. A great dilemma took hold of Daru. As much as Daru hate to condone the Arab’s crime, he also refused to be an instrument in another man’s conviction.

The next morning, halfway to Tanguit, Daru gave the Arab the choice, he can either choose the eastern road to Tanguit and his prison, or he can take the road south and take refuge with the nomads.

Daru has never felt so alienated on the plateau before, until now. Not after the Arab chose the road east.

Albert Camus used a brilliant setting, purposely utilizing a man’s contented existence, in spite of his isolation and frugal livelihood, to emphasize the subject of moral distress and human responsibility.

Rating: 4 stars


Mrs. Annie Austin is living proof. Her success in finding both the late Mr. Cruikshank and the present Mr. Austin in the cemetery was not based on luck, but the result of pure practicality. Obituaries are of full of unmarried men, after all -widowers walking around cemeteries, missing their wives and maybe wishing they are married again.

Surely then, Mr. Belli was wrong in believing that in a cemetery a man is safe from husband stalkers. And if Mary O’Meaghan is zealous enough, she may catch a nice young widower that same afternoon.

The wit in this simple short story is most enjoyable.

Rating: 4 stars


God has a great sense of humor. And He knew exactly when to send His message and how we may learn our life lessons. Let’s take George McWhirter Fotheringay for example. In less than a week, he learned that (1) miracles do happen, (2) they should be taken seriously, (3) consequences await those who bend miracles without thorough thought, and (4) man is easily tempted.

A classical genius, really.

Rating: 4 stars

MARRIAGE À LA MODE by Katherine Mansfield

When a man and his wife unexpectedly grew up separately after some years -one wanting it capriciously this way, while the other sentimentally thought it best the other way- is it still called marriage?

Thought-provoking. Katherine Mansfield made an embroidered, yet dramatic illustration of a marriage divorced from its purpose and foundation.

Rating: 4 stars


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