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Cuento espanol contemporaneo.

Diversity is the salient feature of the twenty-one short stories gathered in Cuento espanol contemporaneo, most written or published within the past five years. The editors preface the collection with an insightful fifty-page essay and ten pages of bibliography on the contemporary short story and provide tables with biobibliographic and publication data. With two exceptions, the individual authors give their personal definitions of the genre immediately preceding their selections.

The collection is alphabetical by surname and opens with the magical-realist "Expediente en curso" by Agustin Cerezales, followed by "En busca de un retrato" by Paloma Diaz-Mas, an essay-story on the positive aspects of feminine aging. The next two items make better use of the classical short-story ingredients of crescendo and surprise ending: "Mi tio Cesar," by Luis Mateo Diez, is a Don Juan episode; "El fisonomista," by Javier Garcia Sanchez, pleasantly shocks with its extraterrestrial theme. The nonstory "Joyce al fin superado" by Luis Goytisolo spoofs the self-important exegetes of Finnegans Wake; conversely, Javier Marias uses a traditional story pattern for "En el viaje de novios," wherein crescendo reaches explosive proportions. Marina Mayoral's "Entonces empezo a olvidar" illustrates with deft irony the transformations a narrative undergoes when retold by different voices.

Borgesian humor at its best impregnates "Tres documentos sobre la locura de J.L.B." by Jose Maria Merino, while "Primavera de luto" by Juan Jose Millas, more in line with an Alfred Hitchcock story, provides lots of wicked humor. The masterful "Cuento de la peluca" by Vicente Molina Foix has the classical feel of tales by Wilde and Balzac; Antonio Munoz Molina's irreverent humor together with just a drop of eroticism makes "Las otras vidas" a joy to read. Virginia Woolf is back in "Walter no ha muerto" by Ana Maria Navales, a joyless account of lesbian love, whereas in "El espejo de las sombras" Lourdes Ortiz relives childhood memories on the other side of the looking glass. "La barbera alemana," Antonio Pereira's incredibly cunning story about a Nazi war criminal, leaves us shocked and horrified.

Alvara Pombo's "Avatar con peripecia de la reaparecida pitillera preferida de su Alteza Imperial la Archiduquesa Olga Alejandrovna" is an admirable exercise in neo-baroque decadence. With "Viejas historias" Soledad Puertolas captures the tedium of divorced Spanish yuppies on the make, and Carme Riera enters the realm of telepathy with her gripping "Volver." Through his unique application of crescendo and surprise ending, Javier Tomeo produces the comic-erotic gem "Braquicefalias," a tale that places him deservedly in the company of Sade and Maupassant. Esther Tusquets crystallizes the beauty of adolescent love in her "Orquesta de verano," as narralogue combines dialogue and third-person narration. Pedro Zarraluki invites us to solve a riddle in "Paginas inglesas," which cleverly synthesizes metaphysics, arithmetic, and fine irony. Juan Eduardo Zuniga unmasks the hollowness and overwhelming sadness underpinning hedonism in his sensitive and beautiful story "El ultimo dia del mundo."

Cuento espanol contemporaneo is an invaluable resource tool as well as an excellent representation of some of the best women and men practitioners of the contemporary short story in Spain.

David Ross Gerling Sam Houston State University
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Author:Gerling, David Ross
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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