Monday, February 23, 2015

Reader's Diary #1123- Edmundo Paz Soldán, translated by Kirk Nesset: The Legend of Wei Li and the Emperor's Palace


Edmundo Paz Soldán's wry flash fiction story, "The Legend of Wei Li and the Emperor's Palace," about an elderly man who gets summoned to the emperor's palace, reminded me initially of the fable by the old Native American in Natural Born Killers:
Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, "Why have you done this to me?" And the snake answered, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."

But rereading Soldán's story a couple of times (that's the beauty of flash fiction), I began to think that the lessons were somewhat different. I suspect the key to understanding Soldán's story is that the way the officer in the story describes the Emperor's palace is similar to the way some people talk about God (i.e., that He's everywhere). The message, I think, is not that the palace isn't everywhere (or that God isn't everywhere), but that we shouldn't necessarily trust the supposed experts.

If this is not what Soldán intended, it was what I took away in any case, and I enjoyed it. But if you take my word on it and your head is found fixed on a pole in the village square, don't blame me!

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