Europa Crying

26 Oct

In 2010 Dalkey Archive, a wonderful publisher and treasure trove of literary gems published Best European Fiction (2010) edited by Akeksandar Hemon, additionally with a lively preface by Zadie Smith.

Hemon tartly expounds:

“…there appears to be a widespread consensus among the all knowing publishing pundits that short fiction is, yet again, well on its way to oblivion, dying in the literary hospice room adjacent to the one which the perpetually moribund novel is also expiring. Given that poetry is already dead and buried, soon the only things left for a committed, serious reader to read will be Facebook status updates, funny text messages, anthologies and confessional memoirs. This time around the short story demise is due to the general vanishing of the printed word (good-bye newspapers, magazines, paper books!), the mass transference of readership to the Web, the volcanic rise of mindless enter-tainment as the main form of brain stimulation. Consequently the reputation of the short story as a pinnacle of literary art, gloriously practiced by Chekhov, Joyce, O’Connor, Nabokov, Munro has been steadily waning, to the point where many new writers believe that writing short stories is merely a warm-up exercise for writing a novel. Thousands upon thousands of ambitious young writers enrolled in America’s writing programs are churning out half dead short stories, creating suffocating hyperinflation all in the hope one day, they’ll be skillful enough to write a death defying novel.

With all that in mind we have decided to offer you a selection of short stories from Europe…this anthology is then, not putting up a fight in the battles that to many seem lost, it is indeed declaring a victory.As far as we are concerned translation and the short story—essential means of communication with and understanding this world of ours— have bern restored to their rightful place

The first volume contained fiction by 35 writers (for my lack of a better word) representing 30 countries. The sophomore effort followed in 2011 (with a preface by the ebullient Colum MCcann) And now a third anthology as been published (preface courtesy of the series’s first American commentator Nicole Krauss) including what should be recognizable names such as Hilary Mantel, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Ingo Schulze, George Konrad, Victor Pelevin, and Enrique Vila-Matas, as well as, you know, unknowns. Also , unlike its two predecessors, this volume is arranged thematically — love, desire, elsewhere, war, thought, art,music, children,family,and home

I am inclined to see these three extant volumes as essential but I am puzzled that there are still claims that people (maybe this is ultimately, a straw man) are sitting shiva for short fiction—from where I sit, I see no shortage of short fiction collections and venues where they are published and celebrated. And other than the hokey bow to the commercial (Best?), which may be necessary to overcome any reluctance to examine a book of European writing, these books must be attended to—ok?

Currently reading The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

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