Monday, July 13, 2009

Reader's Diary #507- Bolesław Prus: A Legend of Old England (translated by Christopher Kasparek)

If you look up "short story" in Wikipedia, you'll no doubt see a lot of short story writers that are familiar. Most of those mentioned I've at least heard of, if not having read a story or two by them. However Bolesław Prus was new to me.

Prus was a Polish writer of the 19th century and is most notable for his novels The Doll and Pharaoh, the latter of which expanded on one of his earlier short stories, "The Legend of Old Egypt."

I'm glad Prus revisited his work, and I hope the novel made up for the problem of his short story.

"The Legend of Old Egypt" is well written in many ways: it is wonderfully paced, there's a clever use of repetition, and it has a great parable feel to it. Though it is flawed, and I would say fundamentally so. Beginning with the adage, "Behold, how vain are human hopes before the order of the world; behold, how vain they are before the decrees that have been written in fiery signs upon the heavens by the Eternal!..." it strips the story of any suspense right from the get go. If the reader doesn't see the ending coming a mile away, Prus hands him binoculars. The warning is repeated several times throughout the story and once again the end, for good measure. If I was to write, "A stitch in time saves nine" at the beginning of a story it wouldn't be all the surprising if my protagonist learned a valuable lesson about preparedness, would it? Not that Prus needed to write a short story with a twist at the end, but he did try to build the tension. Alas, by telling us the moral at the beginning, his efforts were in vain.

It is, however, interesting to read how the story was inspired by contemporary events in Germany.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave your link in the comments below!)


Unknown said...

I read a science fiction story for the week called "Never Despair."

Teddy Rose said...

That does sound interesting John. I may take a peak at it some time.

Here's mine, another children's book that I'm sure you have read:

Literary Feline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Literary Feline said...

(sorry about the first comment--I posted a double link for some reason)

The short story I read this week certainly didn't hurt for suspense. You've got me curious about the inspiration behind the story you read though--sometimes that can be more interesting than the story itself.

I posted my short story thoughts for the week. A WWII tale. It wasn't the story I originally planned on writing about, but I couldn't resist after I'd read it.