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The Eye of the Heart: Short Stories from Latin America (1973)

by Barbara Howes (Editor)

Other authors: Jorge Amado (Contributor), José María Arguedas (Contributor), Roberto Arlt (Contributor), Juan José Arreola (Contributor), Miguel Ángel Asturias (Contributor)36 more, Augusto Roa Bastos (Contributor), Adolfo Bioy Casares (Contributor), María-Luisa Bombal (Contributor), Jorge Luis Borges (Contributor), Juan Bosch (Contributor), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Contributor), Alejo Carpentier (Contributor), Humberto Constantini (Contributor), Julio Cortázar (Contributor), Rubén Darío (Contributor), Machado de Assis (Contributor), Eliseo Diego (Contributor), Abelardo Díaz Alfaro (Contributor), José Donoso (Contributor), Jorge Edwards (Contributor), Carlos Fuentes (Contributor), Rómulo Gallegos (Contributor), Gabriel García Márquez (Contributor), João Guimarães Rosa (Contributor), Ricardo Guiraldes (Contributor), Clarice Lispector (Contributor), Leopoldo Lugones (Contributor), Gabriela Mistral (Contributor), Aníbal Monteiro Machado (Contributor), Pablo Neruda (Contributor), Lino Novas-Calvo (Contributor), Juan Carlos Onetti (Contributor), Octavio Paz (Contributor), Arturo Uslar Pietri (Contributor), Horacio Quiroga (Contributor), Alfonso Reyes (Contributor), Juan Rulfo (Contributor), Dinah Silveira de Queiroz (Contributor), Armonía Somers (Contributor), César Vallejo (Contributor), Mario Vargas Llosa (Contributor)

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1352161,051 (4.61)4
Contains short stories by such prominent authors as Machado de Assis, Alfonso Reyes, Jorge Luise Borges, Juan Bosch, Jorge Amado, Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa.
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A truly outstanding Latin American anthology featuring forty-two short stories from internationally renowned authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, G. Cabrera Infante, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Octavio Paz, Alejo Carpentier and Pablo Neruda along with writers lesser known, for example Ricardo Güiraldes, Lino Novás Calvo and Juan Bosch.

Stories truly magical and unforgettable but, for me, none more so than two marvelous pieces I have chosen to make the focus on my review, the first by Adolfo Bioy Casares and the second by Clarice Lespector:

MIRACLES CANNOT BE RECOVERED
The narrator miscalculates and arrives at the station much too early, more than an hour prior to his scheduled train. He encounters a man he knows from his university days, Luis Greve, who has also arrived at the station much too early through a similar miscalculation. They both decide to head for a bar.

Reflecting on how their respective miscalculation resulted in a chance meeting, the narrator remarks how things fall in series and today will in all likelihood be full of pointless coincidences. “Why pointless?” Greve asks, to which the narrator explains: “Pointless in the sense they don’t prove anything.” Ah, such a statement implies a particular way of perceiving the universe and Greve questions such a perceiving. Thus we have the major theme running throughout Bioy Casares' tale.

Turns out, our narrator is none other than Adolfo Bioy Casares who relays a story about a pointless coincidence, an odd experience he had some years back. Who knows, Bioy Casares reflects, Greve might help him make literary use of his story. Or, then again, perhaps he has simply fallen into the habit of repeating his own stories.

Either way, as many of us know, such is the life of a fiction writer – always telling stories and, like an alchemist seeking to transform base metal into gold, forever on the lookout for ways of turning the raw material of past experience into literary gold.

Bioy Casares speaks of how on a voyage aboard ship he and a fellow Argentinian, an extroverted elderly lady, encountered a distinguished gentleman who they took for Somerset Maugham (the famous English author’s name was on the official passenger list) but turned out to be a retired colonel. Both Argentinians were embarrassed but next morning they look down from an upper deck: when a small group of passengers disembark from their ocean liner to board a tugboat they both spot two identical Somerset Maughams.

After listening to this story, Luis Greve admits the double spotting was an utterly pointless coincidence. He then goes on to ask if the story just recounted proves there are moments in life when anything can happen. Unsure, Bioy Casares replies: “Maybe.”

Luis Greve details his own story with enigmatic moments, moments that “cannot be recovered, since they immediately slip into the past, but that are real – moments that belong to another world, where natural laws can’t reach them.” Some years past he was traveling with a woman Bioy Casares knows, a famous beauty, Carmen Silveyra, a woman Greve loved. Carmen also loves Greve and is traveling with him on the sly since she should be back in Buenos Aries attending a fund raiser for the president.

In one hotel lobby, she and the president encounter one another. The president, a formidable woman, is accompanied by a strange little man. The president lifts her forefinger. Carmen thinks the president will point an accusing forefinger at her but instead twice touches forefinger to her own lips. The president walks on; Carmen turns to Greve and winks, letting him know how she understands the president wants her own trip with the strange little man to remain a secret. From this moment forward, oddly enough, Greve sadly recounts that his love for Carmen and Carmen's love for him faded. Now that is odd, but I suspect we all can relate to such odd moments in life.

Since the flame of love is no longer raging, after returning with Carmen to Buenos Aries, Greve heads off by himself on another trip without even so much as telling Carmen. On his return to the city, he is greeted by two men who ask him to identify a dead body – the body of Carmen Silveyra. Greve does indeed identify Carmen and is propelled to become a tourist traveling long distances over many continents.

After months of fatigue, he walks down a dingy corridor in a South African airport. “I absently noticed a scurry, as if someone were trying to hide among the others.” That someone was, in fact, Carmen Silveyra. Once Carmen detects she has been discovered, rather than speaking, she twice touches forefinger to her own lips and quickly, silently, moves on. There’s no question: Carmen is asking him to keep her secret.



THE SMALLEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD
French explorer Marcel Pretre comes across an African tribe of very small pygmies but is even more surprised when he presses deeper to uncover even smaller pygmies. “And – like a box within a box within a box – obedient, perhaps, to the necessity nature sometimes feels of outdoing herself – among the smallest pygmies in the world there was the smallest of the smallest pygmies in the world.”

How small? The smallest of the smallest was a woman under eighteen inches. Now that’s small! She lived high up in a treetop with her spouse and she was pregnant. We humans have always been fascinated imagining other humanoids much smaller than ourselves, for example Tom Thumb or in Gulliver’s Travels. And, of course, there is the recent archeological discovery of Homo floresiensis (Flores Man) on an island in Indonesia, an extinct species standing about three and a half feet tall. Hobbits, anyone?

Following the very human compulsion to name and categorize everything in sight, the French explorer names her Little Flower. But being so small has big dangers: in addition to disease and falling prey to various predators, these tiny pygmies are hunted like monkeys by a tribe of six footers with nets.

Once captured, they quickly are cooked up for dinner. Thus, their tiny lives are lived mostly in the treetops where they have very little language, being restricted to gestures and animal noises. Their only artistic expression is dancing to the drum while one of their tribe keeps an eye out for those net casting six footers. Again, being hunted for food is deep in our human memory – all those years in Africa as prehominid and early hominid provided sustenance for tigers, leopards, panthers and other predators.

Back home, a life-size color photo of Little Flower appears in the Sunday paper. Understanding how xenophobic we humans tend to be, the various reactions are predictable: “She looks like a dog.” “It gives me the creeps.” “She looks sad but her sadness is of an animal; it isn’t human sadness.”

Clarice Lispector continues with many penetrating, memorable insights into human nature and human psychology, even noting how some children would like to have Little Flower as their special toy, since, “To tell the truth, who hasn’t wanted to own a human being just for himself?”

The French explorer feels sick to his stomach when Little Flower does something unexpected: “She was laughing, warm, warm – Little Flower was enjoying life. The rare thing herself was experiencing the ineffable sensation of not having been eaten yet.” And Little Flower’s joy blossoms into love – not only the love of not being eaten but the love of finding the French explorer’s boot pretty, the strange love for a man who isn’t black, to laugh for love of a shiny ring.

For me, such love speaks to how, no matter how large or small, we are all at our core embodied, sensitive, aesthetic beings with a heart capable of loving darn near everything, a pretty article of clothing, a certain color of hair or movement of hands or hips. Clarice Lispector is more than a storyteller; she’s a magician.

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |



A truly outstanding Latin American anthology featuring 42 short stories from internationally renowned authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, G. Cabrera Infante, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Octavio Paz, Alejo Carpentier and Pablo Neruda along with writers lesser known, for example Ricardo Güiraldes, Lino Novás Calvo and Juan Bosch. Stories truly magical and unforgettable but, for me, none more so than two marvelous pieces I have chosen to make the focus on my review, the first by Adolfo Bioy-Casares and the second by Clarice Lespector:

Miracles Cannot Be Recovered
Coincidences in Our Lives: The narrator miscalculates and arrives at the station much too early, more than an hour prior to his scheduled train. He encounters a man he knows from his university days, Luis Greve, who has also arrived at the station much too early through a similar miscalculation. They both decide to head for a bar. Reflecting on how their respective miscalculation resulted in a chance meeting, the narrator remarks how things fall in series and today will in all likelihood be full of pointless coincidences. “Why pointless?” Greve asks, to which the narrator explains: “Pointless in the sense they don’t prove anything.” Ah, such a statement implies a particular way of perceiving the universe and Greve questions such a perceiving. Thus we have the major theme running throughout Bioy-Casares' tale.

Author as Narrator: Turns out, our narrator is none other than Adolfo Bioy-Casares who relays a story about a pointless coincidence, an odd experience he had some years back. Who knows, Bioy-Casares reflects, Greve might help him make literary use of his story. Or, then again, perhaps he has simply fallen into the habit of repeating his own stories. Either way, as many of us know, such is the life of a fiction writer – always telling stories and, like an alchemist seeking to transform base metal into gold, forever on the lookout for ways of turning the raw material of past experience into literary gold.

All Aboard: Bioy-Casares speaks of how on a voyage aboard ship he and a fellow Argentinian, an extroverted elderly lady, encountered a distinguished gentleman who they took for Somerset Maugham (the famous English author’s name was on the official passenger list) but turned out to be a retired colonel. Both Argentinians were embarrassed but next morning they look down from an upper deck: when a small group of passengers disembark from their ocean liner to board a tugboat they both spot two identical Somerset Maughams. After listening to this story, Luis Greve admits the double spotting was an utterly pointless coincidence. He then goes on to ask if the story just recounted proves there are moments in life when anything can happen. Unsure, Bioy-Casares replies: “Maybe.”

Strange Happenings, One: Luis Greve details his own story with enigmatic moments, moments that “cannot be recovered, since they immediately slip into the past, but that are real – moments that belong to another world, where natural laws can’t reach them.” Some years past he was traveling with a woman Bioy-Casares knows, a famous beauty, Carmen Silveyra, a woman Greve loved. Carmen also loves Greve and is traveling with him on the sly since she should be back in Buenos Aries attending a fund raiser for the president. In one hotel lobby, she and the president encounter one another. The president, a formidable woman, is accompanied by a strange little man. The president lifts her forefinger. Carmen thinks the president will point an accusing forefinger at her but instead twice touches forefinger to her own lips. The president walks on; Carmen turns to Greve and winks, letting him know how she understands the president wants her own trip with the strange little man to remain a secret. From this moment forward, oddly enough, Greve sadly recounts that his love for Carmen and Carmen's love for him faded. Now that is odd, but I suspect we all can relate to such odd moments in life.

Strange Happenings, Two: Since the flame of love is no longer raging, after returning with Carmen to Buenos Aries, Greve heads off by himself on another trip without even so much as telling Carmen. On his return to the city, he is greeted by two men who ask him to identify a dead body – the body of Carmen Silveyra. Greve does indeed identify Carmen and is propelled to become a tourist traveling long distances over many continents. After months of fatigue, he walks down a dingy corridor in a South African airport. “I absently noticed a scurry, as if someone were trying to hide among the others.” That someone was, in fact, Carmen Silveyra. Once Carmen detects she has been discovered, rather than speaking, she twice touches forefinger to her own lips and quickly, silently, moves on. There’s no question: Carmen is asking him to keep her secret.

Coda: This Bioy-Casares story has a particular, direct resonance for me personally. As a young man I likewise had a chance encounter with a beautiful woman that radically changed my life forever. Was my chance encounter pointless or was it a moment that belongs to another world, where natural laws cannot reach?


The Smallest Woman in the World
Unique Discovery: French explorer Marcel Pretre comes across an African tribe of very small pygmies but is even more surprised when he presses deeper to uncover even smaller pygmies. “And – like a box within a box within a box – obedient, perhaps, to the necessity nature sometimes feels of outdoing herself – among the smallest pygmies in the world there was the smallest of the smallest pygmies in the world.” How small? The smallest of the smallest was a woman under eighteen inches. Now that’s small! She lived high up in a treetop with her spouse and she was pregnant. We humans have always been fascinated imagining other humanoids much smaller than ourselves, for example Tom Thumb or in Gulliver’s Travels. And, of course, there is the recent archeological discovery of Homo floresiensis (Flores Man) on an island in Indonesia, an extinct species standing about three and a half feet tall. Hobbits, anyone?

Hard Facts: Following the very human compulsion to name and categorize everything in sight, the French explorer names her Little Flower. But being so small has big dangers: in addition to disease and falling prey to various predators, these tiny pygmies are hunted like monkeys by a tribe of six footers with nets. Once captured, they quickly are cooked up for dinner. Thus, their tiny lives are lived mostly in the treetops where they have very little language, being restricted to gestures and animal noises. Their only artistic expression is dancing to the drum while one of their tribe keeps an eye out for those net casting six footers. Again, being hunted for food is deep in our human memory – all those years in Africa as prehominid and early hominid provided sustenance for tigers, leopards, panthers and other predators.

Creepy: Back home, a life-size color photo of Little Flower appears in the Sunday paper. Understanding how xenophobic we humans tend to be, the various reactions are predictable: “She looks like a dog.” “It gives me the creeps.” “She looks sad but her sadness is of an animal; it isn’t human sadness.” Clarice Lispector continues with many penetrating, memorable insights into human nature and human psychology, even noting how some children would like to have Little Flower as their special toy, since, “To tell the truth, who hasn’t wanted to own a human being just for himself?”

Joy: The French explorer feels sick to his stomach when Little Flower does something unexpected: “She was laughing, warm, warm – Little Flower was enjoying life. The rare thing herself was experiencing the ineffable sensation of not having been eaten yet.” And Little Flower’s joy blossoms into love – not only the love of not being eaten but the love of finding the French explorer’s boot pretty, the strange love for a man who isn’t black, to laugh for love of a shiny ring. For me, such love speaks to how, no matter how large or small, we are all at our core embodied, sensitive, aesthetic beings with a heart capable of loving darn near everything, a pretty article of clothing, a certain color of hair or movement of hands or hips. Clarice Lispector is more than a storyteller; she’s a magician.
( )
1 vote GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Howes, BarbaraEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amado, JorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arguedas, José MaríaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arlt, RobertoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arreola, Juan JoséContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Asturias, Miguel ÁngelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bastos, Augusto RoaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bioy Casares, AdolfoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bombal, María-LuisaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Borges, Jorge LuisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bosch, JuanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cabrera Infante, GuillermoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carpentier, AlejoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Constantini, HumbertoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cortázar, JulioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Darío, RubénContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Assis, MachadoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diego, EliseoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Díaz Alfaro, AbelardoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Donoso, JoséContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, JorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fuentes, CarlosContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gallegos, RómuloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
García Márquez, GabrielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guimarães Rosa, JoãoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guiraldes, RicardoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lispector, ClariceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lugones, LeopoldoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mistral, GabrielaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monteiro Machado, AníbalContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Neruda, PabloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Novas-Calvo, LinoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Onetti, Juan CarlosContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paz, OctavioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pietri, Arturo UslarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Quiroga, HoracioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reyes, AlfonsoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rulfo, JuanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silveira de Queiroz, DinahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Somers, ArmoníaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, CésarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vargas Llosa, MarioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Contains short stories by such prominent authors as Machado de Assis, Alfonso Reyes, Jorge Luise Borges, Juan Bosch, Jorge Amado, Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Book description
Contains:
  • The Psychiatrist / Machado de Assis
  • The Bourgeois King / Rubén Darío
  • Yzur / Leopoldo Lugones
  • The Alligator War / Horacio Quiroga
  • The Devil's Twilight / Rómulo Gallegos
  • The Gauchos' Hearth / Ricardo Guiraldes
  • Why Reeds Are Hollow / Gabriela Mistral
  • Major Aranda's Hand / Alfonso Reyes
  • On the Other Side of Life and Death / César Vallejo
  • The Piano / Aníbal Monteiro Machado
  • The Other Death / Jorge Luis Borges
  • Tatuana's Tale / Miguel Ángel Asturias
  • One Sunday Afternoon / Roberto Arlt
  • Like the Night / Alejo Carpentier
  • A Pine-Cone, a Toy Sheep … / Pablo Neruda
  • As I Am … As I Was / Lino Novás-Calvo
  • The Drum Dance / Arturo Uslar Pietri
  • The Third Bank of the River / João Guimarães Rosa
  • Jacob and the Other / Juan Carlos Onetti
  • The Beautiful Soul of Don Damian / Juan Bosch
  • The Tree / María-Luisa Bombal
  • Tarciso / Dinah Silveira de Queiroz
  • Warma Kuyay / José María Arguedas
  • How Porciúncula the Mulatto Got the Corpse Off His Back / Jorge Amado
  • End of the Game / Julio Cortázar
  • My Life with the Wave / Octavio Paz
  • Miracles Cannot Be Recovered / Adolfo Bioy-Casares
  • Encounter with the Traitor / Augusto Roa Bastos
  • Marcario / Juan Rulfo
  • Madness / Armonía Somers
  • The Switchman / Juan José Arreola
  • Concerning Señor de la Peña / Eliseo Diego
  • The Dogs / Abelardo Díaz Alfaro
  • The Smallest Woman in the World / Clarice Lispector
  • Marmosets / Clarice Lispector
  • In the Beginning / Humberto Costantini
  • Paseo / José Donoso
  • The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World / Gabriel García Márquez
  • A Nest of Sparrows on the Awning / Guillermo Cabrera Infante
  • The Two Elenas / Carlos Fuentes
  • Weight-Reducing Diet / Jorge Edwards
  • Sunday, Sunday / Mario Vargas Llosa
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