I have always loved the short story format. Unlike the long novel, where you need to explore the idea and the emotion with depth and persistence, a short story is like a small walk, with always a clearer path and destination, compared to the longer version of prose, which may sometimes take you through the labyrinth and then leave you there. Besides, there are practical benefits to the genre – it is easier to read online and so it is possible to sneak one in amidst work. It’s also quite handy during a commute – you can finish one on each ride without breaking the continuity. For that reason, it is also quite good in any time-constrained situations where you are unable to find enough time for a heavier tome.
Lured by all these benefits, I have been indulging in story-reading in the past few days and come across quite a few good ones. A few I really liked:
My Oedipus Complex by the Irish author Frank O Connor. I loved the humor with which O Connor details out a young boy’s hostility against his war-returned father
Jorge Luis Borges’ The Garden of forking paths (Spanish), which is a slightly cryptic story of several alternative futures and possibilities. A full text of the story can be found here.
A Thousand years of good prayers by Yiyun Li (China). (Her collection has incidentally won the Frank O’Connor International short story award). The story voices the after-effects of living in a prohibitive and secretive communist regime, in a graceful and unpredictable manner.
An Encounter by James Joyce (part of the collection The Dubliners) where two adventurous school students bunk school and go through many experiences, including an encounter with a lecherous old man. I felt that the story summed up the whole experience of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in a few lines – Ireland through a child’s eye. A link to the text can be found here.
Silence by the Russian author Leonid Andreyev, which is a story of the guilt, submission and eventual breakdown of a grievous father after the suicide of his daughter. Andreyev has described beautifully the flow of emotions of a father who confronts his misgivings as a parent without knowing what he could have done better. The story can be read here.
Although not a short story, but belonging to the world of short prose, I also read a fictional letter called Lord Chandos Letter by Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, where Lord Chandos, a once famous writer, describes his failure at words and expression of thoughts. All I can say it is one of the most expressive and elaborate pieces of expression that I have come across, which is very ironic to its theme. The letter can be found here.