genre short stories

Havana is a Really Big City

These humorous and poignant stories that illustrate everyday life in contemporary Havana will challenge the reader's assumptions about the Cuban reality.

Themes of class, race, gender, and sexuality are artfully interwoven in humorous and poignant narratives that make the reader pause to rethink her/his views or assumptions about Cuba and about life. This groundbreaking collection of her work, most of which is available for the first time in English translation, includes La habana es una ciudad bien grande in its entirety as well as other selected stories.

Wildcat21 says: ‘Yanez portrays Cuba as a familiar place, the well-known small-town feel. Each story introduces us to a character, ranging from children to adults to a dog, who tells us a personal account of the highs and lows of life. Each story is so different, covering a variety of themes such as sadness for lost loved ones, unhappiness with life, coming of age, and love. These stories are original and down to earth, and the emotions that flow from character to character and story to story are completely relatable. Yanez weaves so much emotion into such few words. She writes as though she's a good friend just telling you stories.’

(A special thank you to book club member, Beth Cummings for the suggestion.)

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The Collected Short Stories of Gopal Baratham

“The writer possesses a technically excellent prose style, so smooth that it slips down the reader’s throat like a well-made Singapore Sling.”— The Hindu

“This exciting collection brings together thirty-nine of the late Dr. Gopal Baratham’s characteristic and revered pieces. In his usual blunt, strong and controversial style, Baratham’s socio-political critiques are ‘peopled’ by characters from virtually every background and class—with their frustrated hopes, wild illusions and excesses.

Paired with a stylistic and evolving narrative voice, as seen in dialogue that fluctuates from poetic to quirky, this writer’s ambivalent medium is also his message. Readers are drawn into the depth of his work, and left with a sympathetic, sensitive understanding of events, people, actions and the complexities of relationships

(Submitted by Ivor Watkins, book club moderator.)

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Beauty in Mourning and Other Stories

“This collection of short stories and novellas are the first of Auezov's works ever to be translated into English. They were written in the 1920s in the author's youth, but have an assurance and maturity that have earned them widespread popularity throughout Kazakhstan and the Soviet Union. Gunshot at the Pass was made into a successful film and An Orphan's Lot, Beauty in Mourning, Savage Grey and Turbulent Times are works, which nearly every Kazakh knows and loves. These works are revered for their seminal influence on Kazakh literature and drama, the fascinating insights they provide on the culture and customs of the steppe but, above all, as truly great, universal stories that have exercised their power over the imaginations of generations of Kazakhs and are now finally available to a worldwide audience.

Mukhtar Auezov (1897-1961) is considered one of Kazakhstan's greatest and most revered writers. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in September 1957, Mukhtar Auezov was awarded the Order of Lenin and granted the title ‘Honoured Academic of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic"‘ In 1959, he was awarded the highly prestigious Lenin Prize for The Path of Abai. After his death in 1961, one of the main streets in Almaty (Kazakhstan's largest metropolis) was named in his honour, and later a whole district of the city. In 1963, his house on M. Tulebaev Street in Almaty was turned into an official museum to honour the writer's work and achievements.”

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Mesopotamia

“A unique work of fiction from the troubled streets of Ukraine, giving invaluable testimony to the new history unfolding in the nation’s post-independence years

This captivating book is Serhiy Zhadan’s ode to Kharkiv, the traditionally Russian-speaking city in Eastern Ukraine where he makes his home. A leader among Ukrainian post-independence authors, Zhadan employs both prose and poetry to address the disillusionment, complications, and complexities that have marked Ukrainian life in the decades following the Soviet Union’s collapse. His novel provides an extraordinary depiction of the lives of working-class Ukrainians struggling against an implacable fate: the road forward seems blocked at every turn by demagogic forces and remnants of the Russian past. Zhadan’s nine interconnected stories and accompanying poems are set in a city both representative and unusual, and his characters are simultaneously familiar and strange. Following a kind of magical-realist logic, his stories expose the grit and burden of stalled lives, the universal desire for intimacy, and a wistful realization of the off-kilter and even perverse nature of love.”

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Difficult Loves

“The quirkiness and grace of the writing, the originality of the imagination at work, the occasional incandescence of vision, and a certain lovable nuttiness make this collection well worth reading.” -Margaret Atwood

“Intricate interior lives are brilliantly explored in these short stories, now presented in one definitive collection as Calvino intended them.

In Difficult Loves, Italy’s master storyteller weaves tales in which cherished deceptions and illusions of love—including self-love—are swept away in magical instants of recognition. A soldier is reduced to quivering fear by the presence of a full-figured woman in his train compartment; a young clerk leaves a lady’s bed at dawn; a young woman is isolated from bathers on a beach by the loss of her bikini bottom. Each of them discovers hidden truths beneath the surface of everyday life. 

This is the first edition in English to present the collection as Calvino originally envisioned it, and includes two stories newly translated by Ann Goldstein.”

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The Inner Immigrant

“These essayistic short stories, penned over a thirty-year period, follow Fabian, Mihkel Mutt’s strange and self-indulgent alter ego, and his adventures in newly independent Estonia. The inner monologues of the chronically indecisive, worrying, apathetic, self-conscious and skeptical Fabian long serve as the author’s voice for delivering ironic observations of the world. These stories highlight the lingering absurdities of the previous Soviet regime, at the same time taking ironic aim at the triumphs and defeats, the virtues and vices of the Estonian intelligentsia.”

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Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

"Childhood stories of family, country and belonging

What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss, showcases many diverse voices, experiences and stories in order to answer that question. Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside those from newly discovered writers of all ages. All of the contributors speak from the heart – sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.

This groundbreaking collection will enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today.

Contributors include: Tony Birch, Deborah Cheetham, Adam Goodes, Terri Janke, Patrick Johnson, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Jack Latimore, Celeste Liddle, Amy McQuire, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Miranda Tapsell, Jared Thomas, Aileen Walsh, Alexis West, Tara June Winch, and many, many more.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Julie Jacobs for the suggestion.)

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Stone Tree

Winner of the 2011 Nordic Council Literature Prize

"Gyrðir Elíasson’s stories take us out of ourselves. Situated on the lonely western shores of Iceland, or out in the vast mountain ranges or barren lava fields, each is a study in self-exile. We follow a Boston ornithologist, speeding through the landscape chasing Arctic Terns; a boy relocating to the town of Siglufjördur to compete in a chess tournament; a husband packing his wife off to visit her aunt. In almost every story, we find people taking leave of their normal lives to take their dreams more seriously.

But even in the most desolate surroundings, Elíasson’s characters find strange company; ghostly presences in the early hours, enviable neighbours, fellow writers turning up at the same retreat, with the same ambitions. Like the wide canopy of stars under which they’re told, these stories plot a constellation of single, glittering images: a child defacing a new piano with a chisel in the middle of the night; a freezer packed with carefully wrapped dead birds, candles floating in a pond at night… Elíasson’s images are always unresolved, but are also somehow complete; like the dreams he shares with us, that lead us, through their own solitude, into other people’s. As Elíasson writes, ‘all dreams are joined at the edges, like the squares in a patchwork quilt.’"

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The Wedding of Zein

"The Wedding of Zein unfolds in the same village on the upper Nile where Tayeb Salih’s tragic masterpiece Season of Migration to the North is set. Here, however, the story that emerges through the overlapping, sometimes contradictory voices of the villagers is comic. Zein is the village idiot, and everyone in the village is dumbfounded when the news goes around that he will be getting married—Zein the freak, Zein who burst into laughter the moment he was born and has kept women and children laughing ever since, Zein who lost all his teeth at six and whose face is completely hairless, Zein married at last? Zein’s particular role in the life of the village has been the peculiar one of falling in love again and again with girls who promptly marry another man. It would be unheard of for him to get married himself.

In Tayeb Salih’s wonderfully agile telling, the story of how this miracle came to be is one that engages the tensions that exist in the village, or indeed in any community: tensions between the devout and the profane, the poor and the propertied, the modern and the traditional. In the end, however, Zein’s ridiculous good luck augurs an ultimate reconciliation, opening a prospect of a world made whole.

Salih’s classic novella appears here with two of his finest short stories, The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid and A Handful of Dates."

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Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

"Bringing up a child, lying to the boss, placing an order in a fast-food restaurant: in Etgar Keret's new collection, daily life is complicated, dangerous, and full of yearning. In his most playful and most mature work yet, the living and the dead, silent children and talking animals, dreams and waking life coexist in an uneasy world. Overflowing with absurdity, humor, sadness, and compassion, the tales in Suddenly, a Knock on the Door establish Etgar Keret—declared a "genius" by The New York Times—as one of the most original writers of his generation."

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Qissat

"These fascinating and diverse stories reflect the everyday concerns of Palestinians living under occupation. Writers who were children during the first intifada appear alongside those who remember the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. They offer compassionate, often critical, insight into their society in times of hardship and turmoil, drawing upon the warmth of human relations and the hope that better times will come. Qissat is a rare showcase of Palestinian women writers across generations and places, including Gaza, Ramallah, the United States and the Gulf.

'Raw and honest ... lyrical and beautifully written' - Sunday Times

'Layered, haunting, sensuously rich' - The Times

'In turn lyrical, sensuous, comic and ironic ... it is the quality of subtle, evocative writing here that makes Qissat remarkable.' -Independent"

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The Book of Gaza

"Under the Israeli occupation of the '70s and '80s, writers in Gaza had to go to considerable lengths to ever have a chance of seeing their work in print. Manuscripts were written out longhand, invariably under pseudonyms, and smuggled out of the Strip to Jerusalem, Cairo or Beirut, where they then had to be typed up. Consequently, fiction grew shorter, novels became novellas, and short stories flourished as the city's form of choice. Indeed, to Palestinians elsewhere, Gaza became known as 'the exporter of oranges and short stories'.

This anthology brings together some of the pioneers of the Gazan short story from that era, as well as younger exponents of the form, with ten stories offering glimpses of life in the Strip that go beyond the global media headlines; stories of anxiety, oppression, and violence, but also of resilience and hope, of what it means to be a Palestinian, and how that identity is continually being reforged; stories of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what many have called 'the largest prison in the world'."

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The Accusation

The Accusation is thought to be the first fiction published abroad by someone still living in North Korea. In fact, this is the only fiction we found written by a North Korean author period. Smuggled out of the country in 2013, this work of fiction is a dystopian thriller. But the book is no fantasy. It’s the reality for 25 million people living out unparalleled human rights abuses in North Korea today.

"The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships. The characters of these compelling stories come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from a young mother living among the elite in Pyongyang whose son misbehaves during a political rally, to a former Communist war hero who is deeply disillusioned with the intrusion of the Party into everything he holds dear, to a husband and father who is denied a travel permit and sneaks onto a train in order to visit his critically ill mother. Written with deep emotion and writing talent, The Accusation is a vivid depiction of life in a closed-off one-party state, and also a hopeful testament to the humanity and rich internal life that persists even in such inhumane conditions."

Note: The author of this book is anonymous, but it's believed that he was born in China. Usually, the author's birth in another country would exclude this book from our list of North Korean suggestions. We made an exception because:

1. This work of fiction is unique & we found no other genres aside from memoirs.
2. The author was born of North Korean parents.
3. It seems likely that the author moved to North Korea as a baby. 

A special thank you to book club member, Aisha Esbhani for the suggestion and Yeonsang Cho, who lives in South Korea, for her impassioned plea to include this important work.

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Finnish Short Stories

A 238-page volume of 32 stories written by Finnish authors, "presenting a wide range of writing styles. 

These short stories cover the period from 1859 through modern times and include some of Finland's classic writers: Aleksis Kivi, Minna Canth, Juhani Aho, Frans Eemil Sillanpaa. More modern writers are Mika Waltari, Veijo Meri Veikko Huovinen, Marja-Leena Mikkola and Timo Mukka."

This translation by an American from Minnesota, began as a project while taking a translation course University of Minnesota to reaffirm her Finnish roots. Becoming popular, the collection was then edited by Borje Vahamaki, Professor of Finnish Studies at the University of Toronto in Ontario.

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Behind Enemy Lines

"Behind Enemy Lines is a collection of stories about ordinary people and anti-heroes dragged into a search for meaning in their lives – whether it is a simple search for identity and love, or a bigger struggle for Africa's political freedom. The canvas of their actions, motivations and circumstances is a Zimbabwe of the past, present and future. Humorous, acerbic, funny and tragic, the stories cover the whole gamut of emotions. A soldier navigates his way across hostile territory to a distant safe house; a freedom fighter searches the debris of a ruined city for evidence of a horrific crime; an ordinary boy is caught up in a bank robbery; and an activist journeys home for her ex-boyfriend's funeral. Ruzvidzo interweaves the past, present and future with a confidence often missing in a debutante, offering a uniquely compelling angle to the Zimbabwean experience."

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The Cape

"'Western readers often assume that Japan is one homogeneous culture, but Nakagami, award-winning burakumin writer, exposes the fissures behind this facade. In these stories, Nakagami is unrelentingly grim, showing a Zola-like obsession with inherited traits. In the final entry, Nakagami gives rein to his erotic side, depicting the frenzied and strange coupling of Kozo, a construction worker, and a mysterious red-haired hitchhiker.' —Publishers Weekly

Born into the burakumin—Japan’s class of outcasts—Kenji Nakagami depicts the lives of his people in sensual language and stark detail. The Cape is a breakthrough novella about a burakumin community, their troubled memories, and complex family histories."

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Ficciones

"The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the gargantuan powers of imagination, intelligence, and style of one of the greatest writers of this or any other century. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. More playful and approachable than the fictions themselves are Borges’s Prologues, brief elucidations that offer the uninitiated a passageway into the whirlwind of Borges’s genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his skepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between."

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