Short stories have always been close to my heart. More than novellas and novels. I do not know why but they are. Short stories are more compassionate – I do not know why again but I think they are. Honestly sometimes they also say more than full-length novels can and I have repeatedly said and maintain that.
The minute I started reading, “The Selected Stories of Merce Rodoreda”, I knew there was something different about this one. These 30 stories address every grim complexity of life and longing, heartache (very subtly done), capturing the necessary elements of chaos and peace. I had not heard of Merce Rodoreda before this book, and I am certain most people have not.
Merce Rodoreda’s stories take the extra leap that is required – of venturing into the unknown and writing something so worthwhile. For instance, in, “Friday June 8” a homeless girl ties a rock around her new born baby’s throat, a product of rape and throws her into the river. Shocking? Yes! But it is the prose that is used while writing this which will get you to weep silently. Stories such as these make you wonder: Should I continue reading this? And you know that you must, because it is about the writing and the delicate plots that will make you want to.
“Before I Die” is another such story. A housewife tries to come to terms with her husband’s past love, who she got to know of through the secret letters in his suitcase. The emotion and sensibility of the wife are well captured. “Carnival” on the other hand is a simple and poignant love story (I can safely say that), of a man and a woman (strangers) dressed in carnival outfits and walking together.
Most of the stories are short and that’s how it should really be – giving away some and hiding some. The stories come from three different collections published in 1958, 1978, and the last one seems to have been collected after her death. The stories are published in a chronological order and as the reader reads along, the different writing styles are clear – from simple to more experimental towards the end.
There is wide range to these stories, and enough and more for every kind of reader. Rodoreda goes into the heart of the human condition and churned out these brilliant stories. I would highly recommend this one, as I am all for short stories.