Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"In the Middle of the Night" a short story by Horacio Quirico (1919)

A Short Story by the Edgar Alan Poe of the Amazon

           Horacio Quiroga and his first wife.

Horacio Quiroga (1878 to 1937-Salto Uruguay) is considered the first modern South American short story writer.    He called Edgar Allen Poe his greatest teacher (and he lead a life at least as tragic as Poe)    He has been called "The Edgar Allen Poe of the Amazon" as he is most famous for his horror stories set in the jungles of the Amazon.   His stories are about people at the end of their rope, people driven mad by the isolation of the jungle,  the borders between hallucinations and reality and above all, death.   

Quiroga's father accidentally shot himself  before he was three months old.   Quiroga accidentally killed a close friend while cleaning a gun.    His best friend, also an author, shot himself after a bad review.   He had several very doomed from the start love affairs and marriages    When he was 22 his step father shot himself.   

At about twenty two Quiroga  discovered Edgar Allen Poe and knew he must become  a short story writer.   He also wrote several novels but his 200 or so short stories are his legacy to the world.   At about this same time he went along as official photographer on a trip with the famous Argentine poet, Leopoldo  Lugones, to  visit Jesuit missions in the Amazon region.    Quiroga fell in love with the jungle areas of the Amazon.   He was enthralled by the lush danger, the feeling of unlimited fecundity, the strangeness to him of the native people, and one must admit the cheapness with which land could then be bought there.   He set up a farm there and did many experimental things no one else had tried before.   Most of them were failures (I sense he was best at starting things!) but they show he had a great practical intelligence not just literary.   (There is a very interesting article on him HERE that details his numerous romances.)

"Drifting" The last story by Quiroga upon which I posted was about a man bitten by a poisoness snake trying to make it by river where he hopes a doctor living there could save him.  "In the Middle of the Night", set on a tributary of the Amazon, centers on the efforts of a wife to get her husband, stung by a sting ray and in terrible pain, to a medical facility down river.  The narrator is on a journey on the river and stops in a modest shop they run on the river, which is also offers bed and board for travelers.  He begins to speak with the woman who, along with her husband, try to eak out a living trading goods from their store. The wife tells him the story of the horrible journey to get her husband up river to a doctor.  He as in extreme pain.  

In just a few pages, Quiroga made me feel I was there on an Amazon tributary.   I really should read more of the 12 stories in the collection in which this appears.  

Mel u

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