A Paranormal Mass Story by the
Nobel Prize Winner for 1921
Some days I feel like reading a short story but I do not know what I want to read. Almost every day I check the short story web page East of the Web: Short Stories to see what stories they have featured for the day. (This is how I discovered Katherine Mansfield). Yesterday one of the featured stories was "The Mass of Shadows" by Anatole France. France (1844 to 1912-Paris, France) won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1921. His best known work is The Island of Penguin, which I read several decades ago. "The Mass of Shadows" (no translator credit is given) was only five pages long so I decided to read it.
"The Mass of Shadows" is an interesting short story but not a great one. Stories that involve unusual masses or masses with paranormal elements were common at the time, especially in largely Catholic countries so in this way the story is typical. The story is narrated by having someone in the story repeat a story his grave digger father often told. Grave diggers are important stock characters at the time as they are considered to be unlikely to be confused by ghosts or strange things seen in cemeteries. The central character is another stock figure-the once beautiful woman driven to madness by a lost love who has been in mourning for a lost love for a very long time. She goes to mass as she normally does only she is somehow back forty years ago. The rest of the plot unfolds in a not real surprising way so I will not tell more of the story. As in many other works, by women as well as men, it seems a woman is not worth writing about unless she was at least once beautiful.
You can read it online HERE.
This is not a great short story but it is entertaining and a good way to have read the work of a Nobel Prize winner. You can read it probably in less than five minutes.