The Names of the Things That Were There: Stories

Other Pr. Oct. 2023. 352p. tr. from Spanish by Curtis Bauer. ISBN 9781635420760. pap. $16.99. F
Known mostly to U.S. audiences for his novel Burning Patience, the inspiration for the film Il Postino/The Postman, Chilean-born Skármeta is a prominent member of Latin America’s post-boom generation. Touted as the best of his short fiction output—an honor they deserve—these 13 stories were previously published in Spanish in five separate collections as far back as 1967 before being consolidated in chronological order under the present cover. Seven, however, have already appeared in English by different translators in Watch Where the Wolf Is Going (1991). Seemingly autobiographical but varied in content, the stories run the gamut in style and theme: familial poignancy in “Fish,” linguistic playfulness in “Stuck in the Mud,” terrorism in “From Blood to Oil,” and quirky humor in “Borges,” which isn’t really about the Argentine writer. In all of them, Skármeta deals with the smaller events that impact the characters’ daily lives. The foreword by Mexican writer and journalist Juan Villoro, who also chose the selections, presents a very personal overview of Skármeta and these works.
VERDICT This commendable compilation could be considered an octogenarian writer’s valedictory gift to the literary community, who will revel in its thematic originality and stylistic bravura.
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