Words Without Borders released its September 2011 edition which includes three short stories from Spanish Language writers and a review of Sergio Chejfec’s newest book, among other things. I wasn’t familiar with any of the writers included in this edition. Slavko Zupcic is from Venezuela and wrote what I thought was the strongest story of the bunch about a man who steals books only to have the author die a day latter. The Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel’s story was OK, about the breakup of a relationship via gardening. It had its moments until he decided he was a cactus, which should have been funny but became tedious. I skimmed Eduardo Halfon’s story before giving up quickly. I don’t like stories about writers and writer’s conferences. Maybe I should have given it more time, but I have no patience for that.
I finished reading Zoetrope All Story: The Latin American Issue a week ago and have sometime to think about the quality of the stories. Before I start, though, I must say it was a pleasant surprise to have the text both in English and Spanish, which gave me a chance to read the stories in the original.
On the whole I wasn’t impressed with the stories. Many of them just weren’t that interesting to me. I’m not sure exactly why. Some of it was the writing style, which didn’t interest me too much, but mostly it was the choice of subjects. The worst was the story about the porn actor. I stopped reading it after a page and a half.
There were several stories, though, that did stand out. Tuesday Meetings by Slavko Zupcic was probably the best. The writing was fresh and the story about inmates in an asylum waiting for the pope’s visit was interesting and funny. Insular Menu by Ronaldo Menéndez from Cuba talk of the privations in Castro’s Cuba with a humor that didn’t dwell on the politics but human survival, although, cat lovers shouldn’t read the story. An Open Secret by the late Aura Estrada had some nice touches, although I think the story had more to do with Juan Rulfo than Borges. And, finally, Family by Rodrigo Hasbún was had some nice shifting perspective.
Zoetrope All Story: The Latin American Issue isn’t the best of Latin America, but a sampling of young writers. Some of these writers are very good and are worth a further look. Considering it can take years before young writers can make it into English, this is a good collection even if it is a little uneven.