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Monday, May 30, 2011

Reader's Diary #718- José Eduardo Agualusa: If Nothing Else Helps, Read Clarice

Looking for online African short stories, I came upon the Woyingi Blog, which has a fantastic list of African authors, organized by country. You have to skim for short story authors, but there are many links to short stories available online. Hoping to consult this list on a pretty regular basis, I figured I'd start with the very first link: Angolian author José Eduardo Agualusa's "If Nothing Else Helps, Read Clarice." (As it turns out, Agualusa and I share the same birthday-- though he's 16 years older than I.)

If Nothing Else Happens, Read Clarice begins with a man disillusioned by television and deciding instead to dream up a fish. It's a skill he once learned from an old fisherman and the rest of the story recounts that lesson.

Dancing lightly with magical realism, I was apprehensive. It's not a form that I actively seek out and admittedly I feel stupid when I can't figure out what the heck it's all supposed to mean, which is quite often. Is it symbolic? Is it fantasy? I want to appreciate it for the creativity involved, but my logical side wants to ram a flaming Q-Tip into my brain. My logical side.

But in the absence of matches and cotton swabs, I instead filled in the logical gaps of Agualusa's story with assumptions. Dreaming up a fish is just using one's imagination. But more than that, it's using imagination as meditation. Drawing in bits of ones surroundings to help create an internal image of a perfect fish, detailed and real. Or else the old fisherman is crazy. Or crazy, but on to something.

It might help if I'd read Clarice. Clarice Lispector is a Brazilian author who I'd not heard of before, but fortunately I was also able to find one of her short stories online. (She's also a Sagittarius.) So, next Monday, I'll see if it all makes a little more sense. And if it doesn't, this week's story was pleasant enough as it was.

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

3 comments:

Julie @ Read Handed said...

Sounds like an interesting story. I posted this week about Dennis Lehane's short stories. You can read it here

Loni said...

Not sure if this is a story I'm going to read. I'm also apprehensive about magical realism. I like to mostly understand what I'm reading.

I read Ponies this week
http://loniseye.blogspot.com/2011/05/ponies-by-kij-johnson.html

Melwyk said...

I haven't read this short story yet -- thanks for pointing it out. I read Agualusa's novella Book of Chameleons a while back and quite liked it!