Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Horacio Quiroga-Four Stories From The Edgar Alan Poe of the Amazon

"The Decapitated Chicken" (1908, 5 pages, translated by Margaret Peden)
"The Son" (1917, 5 pages, )
"The Canoe"  (1921, 4 pages, )
"The Lazy Bee"  (1918, 3 pages )

Four Stories from Horacio Quiroga
Uruguay's Master of the Horror Story
The Edgar Alan Poe of the Amazon

I first discovered Horacio Quiroga (1878 to 1937-Salto, Uruguay) quite by  accident in April when I found one of his more famous short stories, "The Feather Pillow" on a short story web page I like.  (There is some background information on Quiroga in my prior post.    Today I will just  say that Edgar Alan Poe was his literary hero and Quiroga led a life as least as tragic as Poe's).    At the time I read "The Feather Pillow", which I see as near must reading, I found some collections of his work for sale at Amazon but could not find anymore of his stories online.   I looked a little deeper yesterday and was happy to find four of them, one of the stories, "The Decapitated Chicken" would make even Poe cringe, I think.   One of the stories is a child's story (of which he wrote a number), the other two are in the horror story, death obsessed vein.   I will talk briefly about each story and will give you a link where you can read the stories if you like.

"The Decapitated Chicken", by far the most powerful of these four stories, is a truly horrifying story about a cursed family.   If it does not make you cringe, check your pulse.   I do not think I will forget this family.    A couple marry, they are very much in love and their passion for each other is strong.   Fourteen months into the marriage, the wife gives birth to a son.   At age 18 months he has a terrible illness which he survives but he has been reduced in intelligence.   This story does not use any kind of polite language to talk about the son.   The narrator calls him an "idiot" over and over and we feel, even though we do not want to, how horrible this must be.   Quiroga describes the son so we feel he is a beast more than person. Of course the couple if crushed but in time they have another son but at age 18 months the same thing happens.   They begin to have vicious fights over whose heredity is causing this.    The fights end but the early spirit of the marriage is destroyed.   They consult a doctor and he does tell him it is probably hereditary but as each parent has issues in their background they cannot fix the blame for this.   They do come to nearly hate each other through the horrible fights the boys bring on.    The boys are described in terms to make them seem revolting.    In time they have twin boys (OK can anyone say "planned parenthood?"), to their great horror at age 18 months they are both reduced to the level of idiots (I know this is cold and cruel but it is the term used over and over in the story.)    Finally they have a daughter who reaches age five and shows no sign of the family curse.    The parents soon forget all about their four boys and give all their love to their daughter.   She becomes totally spoiled while the boys are treated more and more like defective animals of some kind.    The parents regain a measure of love for each other in the love for their daughter.    One day the four boys are in the kitchen observing the cook decapitate a chicken....(You can read the story and find out the ending-it is worse than you think! HERE)

"The Son" is another story of a cursed family.   The family is just a man and his thirteen year old son.   His wife has passed away.    The man is a wonderful loving father who has raised his son to be a fine young man.   They live in a very forested Amazonian area (there is a lot of good detail in this story) and get a lot of their food by hunting.   The boy is already an expert with the rifle.      (you can read this heart breaking story HERE-there is no translator credit given for any but the first of these three stories)

"The Canoe" is another death obsessed story (If you read the Wikipedia article on him you will see how he came by his obsession with  death).   It is an interesting  story  but falls below the level of "The Feather Pillow" and  the first two stories of today's post.   You can read it HERE.

"The Lazy Bee" is just a standard children's tale about the value of hard work and such.   Quiroga wrote his children's story with an eye on what parents would approve.    He loved his horror/Poe like stories and his large output of children's stories were pretty much just for money.     I read it as it was only three pages long.   It was Ok and sort of a curiosity read.  You can read it HERE

Of these stories, "The Decpaitated Chicken" is the best (some will not like the way it describes the handicapped sons and find it to brutal).  

If you have not yet read any work by writers from Uruguay (and my bet is you have not!) Quiroga would be a great starting point.   I think his influence on Latin American Literature is quite high.

As always, I am seeking suggestions for short stories I can read online.

Mel u

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