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View Diary: * New Day * — What's your favorite short story? (313 comments)

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  •  The Rocking Horse Winner (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for reminding me. I think that was the first story I read were I realized that literature was cool.

    Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Sands is still the book I give to aspiring writers. I am surprised, now that you mentioned him, that it did not immediately spring to my mind. You don't have to use big words and flowery language to tell a story.

    The Disk
    I am a woodcutter. My name doesn't matter. The hut I was born in, and where I'm soon to die, sits at the edge of the woods. They say these woods go on and on, right to the ocean that surrounds the entire world; they say that wooden houses like mine travel on that ocean. I wouldn't know; I've never seen it. I've not seen the other side of the woods, either. My older brother, when we were boys he made me swear that between the two of us we'd hack away at this woods till there wasn't a tree left standing. My brother is dead now, and now it's something else I'm after, and always will be. Over in the direction where the sun goes down there's a creek I fish in with my hands. There are wolves in the woods, but the wolves don't scare me, and my ax has never failed me. I've not kept track of how old I am, but I know I'm old—my eyes don't see anymore. Down in the village, which I don't venture into anymore because I'd lose my way, everyone says I'm a miser, but how much could a woodcutter have saved up?

    I keep the door of my house shut with a rock so the snow won't get in. One evening I heard heavy, dragging footsteps and then a knock. I opened the door and a stranger came in. He was a tall, elderly man all wrapped up in a worn-out old blanket. A scar sliced across his face. The years looked to have given him more authority than frailty, but even so I saw it was hard for him to walk without leaning on his stick. We exchanged a few words I don't recall now. The finally the man said:

    “I am without a home, and I sleep wherever I can. I have wandered all across Saxony.”

    His words befitted his age. My father always talked about “Saxony”; now people call it England.

    There was bread and some fish in the house. While we ate, we didn't talk. It started raining. I took some skins and made him a pallet on the dirt floor where my brother had died. When night came we slept.

    It was toward dawn when we left the house. The rain had stopped and the ground was covered with new snow. The man dropped his stick and he ordered me to pick it up.

    “Why should I do what you tell me to?” I said to him.

    “Because I am a king,” he answered.

    I thought he was mad. I picked up the stick and gave it to him.

    “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

    by se portland on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 02:19:33 PM PDT

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    •  The Captive (3+ / 0-)
      The story is told in Junin or in Tapalque. A boy disappeared after an Indian attack. People said the Indians had kidnapped him. He parents searched for him in vain. Then, long years later, a soldier who came from the interior told them about an Indian with blue eyes who might well be their son. At length they found him (the chronicle has lost the circumstances and I will not invent what I do no know) and thought they recognized him. The man, buffeted by the wilderness and by barbaric life, no longer knew how to understand the words of his mother tongue, but indifferent and docile, he let himself be led home. There he stopped, perhaps because the others stopped. He looked at the door as if he did not know what it was for. Then suddenly he lowered his head, let out a shout, ran across the entrance way and the two long patios, and plunged into the kitchen. Without hesitating, he sank his arm into the blackened chimney and pulled out the little horn-handled knife he had hidden there as a boy. His eyes shone with joy and his parents wept because they had found their son.

      Perhaps this recollection was followed by others, but the Indian could not live within walls, and one day he went in search of his wilderness. I wonder what he felt in that dizzying moment when past and present became one. I wonder whether the lost son was reborn and died in that instant of ecstasy; and whether he ever managed to recognize, if only as an infant or a dog does, his parents and his home.

      [From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Mildred Boyer]

      The wonder and terror of comprehending that story as El Cautivo remains with me to this day.

      Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

      by alain2112 on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:28:05 PM PDT

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