“The short Latin American stories are characterized by transmitting in a few words an accumulation of emotions and thoughts, among which are the joy, love, despair, roots, honor, life and death.”
Some of the most representative authors of this literary genre are Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Rubén Darío, Augusto Monterroso, among many others that you will find in the following article.
10 short Latin American stories
A short story is defined as a story whose extension is less than that of conventional length. This includes extensions that can be very short and even ultra-short. In constant negotiation with other literary genres, such as the poem or the short essay, from northern Mexico to southern Argentina we can find numerous short stories full of vitality. We will see a selection of 10 stories written by different Latin American authors, including a brief commentary on them.
1. The giraffe (Juan José Arreola)
Tale of the Mexican writer Juan José Arreola, awarded with numerous awards due to its unique anecdotal style. The story The Giraffe belongs to the collection of stories entitled “Bestiary”, published in 1972. The main character is a representation of several vital aspirations of the human being.
Realizing that he had set too high the fruits of a favorite tree, God had no choice but to lengthen the neck of the giraffe.
Quadrupeds with a volatile head, the giraffes wanted to go above their bodily reality and entered resolutely into the realm of disproportions. They had to solve for them some biological problems that look more like engineering and mechanics: a nervous circuit twelve meters long; a blood that rises against the law of gravity through a heart that functions as a deep well pump; and still, at this point, an eyéctil tongue that goes higher, surpassing with twenty centimeters the reach of the bellows to gnaw the blossoms like a steel file.
With all his waste of technique, which greatly complicate his gallop and his loves, the giraffe represents better than anyone the ravings of the spirit: looking in the heights what others find at ground level.
But as she finally has to lean over from time to time to drink the common water, she is forced to develop her acrobatics upside down. And it is then placed at the level of the donkeys.
2. Someone will dream (Jorge Luis Borges)
Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is recognized as one of the most representative authors of twentieth-century Latin American literature. His style is characterized by including elements of magical realism, imaginary mathematics, metaphysics and universal philosophy, among others. This micro-story speaks precisely of oneiric experiences mixed with the most human acts.
What will the indecipherable future dream? He will dream that Alonso Quijano can be Don Quixote without leaving his village and his books. He will dream that the eve of Ulysses may be more prodigal than the poem that narrates his works. He will dream human generations that will not recognize the name of Ulysses. Dream dreams more precise than today’s vigil. He will dream that we can do miracles and that we will not do them, because it will be more real to imagine them. It will dream worlds so intense that the voice of only one of its birds could kill you. He will dream that forgetfulness and memory can be voluntary acts, not aggressions or gifts of chance. Dream that we will see with the whole body, as Milton wanted from the shade of those tender orbs, the eyes. He will dream a world without the machine and without that suffering machine, the body.
Life is not a dream but it can become a dream, writes Novalis.
3. Love 77 (Julio Cortázar)
Of Argentine nationality and later French, although born in Belgium, Julio Cortázar is recognized as one of the authors who inaugurated new literary forms in the course of the 20th century. His style is characterized by a surreal content that goes beyond any time line. The following micro-story manages to convey in just two lines the content of a complex love story.
And after doing everything they do, they get up, bathe, dress up, perfume themselves, dress, and, progressively, they go back to being what they are not.
4. Tin lamps (Álvaro Mutis)
Álvaro Mutis, Colombian poet and novelist based in Mexico until his death in 2013, is one of the most important writers of contemporary times. His style is also anecdotal and the content of several of his writings reflects part of the political and personal concerns, among which is human pain and suffering.
My job is to carefully clean the tin lamps with which the lords of the place go out at night to hunt the fox in the coffee plantations. They dazzle him by suddenly confronting him with these complex artifacts, stinking with oil and soot, which are soon darkened by the work of the flame that, in an instant, blinds the yellow eyes of the beast.
I’ve never heard these animals complain. They always die prey to the astonished terror that this unexpected and gratuitous light causes them. They look for the last time at their executioners as one who encounters the gods by turning a corner. My task, my destiny, is to always keep this grotesque brass bright and ready for its nocturnal and brief venatory function. And I who dreamed to be some day laborious traveler in lands of fever and adventure!
5. Duel (Alfonso Reyes)
Alfonso Reyes was born in northern Mexico in 1889 and not only served as an important poet and essayist, but as an influential diplomat. He grew up in the pre and post-revolutionary context of the early twentieth century and held important positions in government. The same is reflected in some of his short stories, such as the one that follows.
From one end of the House to the other, the aristocratic deputy shouts: “You are to be slapped! And the Democrat, shrugging his shoulders, replies: “You are dead for a duel!
6. The kisses (Juan Carlos Onetti)
Although he is a writer with less recognition than his work deserves, Juan Carlos Onetti, of Uruguayan origin, has been considered one of the most original authors in Latin America. His style is mainly existentialist, because of the pessimistic content and full of negativity, although personal and coherent.
He had met and missed her mother. He kissed on every cheek or hand every indifferent woman presented to him, he had respected the brothel ritual that forbade the joining of mouths; girlfriends, women had kissed him with tongues in his throat and had stopped wise and scrupulous to kiss the member. Saliva, heat and slips, as it should be. After the surprise entrance of the woman, unknown, crossing the horseshoe of mourners, wife and children, weeping sighing friends. She approached, undaunted, the very whore, the very bold, to kiss the coldness of her forehead, over the edge of the coffin, leaving between the horizontality of the three wrinkles, a small carmine stain.
7. The drama of the disenchanted (Gabriel García Márquez)
Gabriel García Márquez was a writer and journalist born in Colombia in 1927. His work is closely related to magical realism and promotes critical and innovative thinking in different areas, such as the arts and sciences. It addresses issues such as loneliness, violence, culture, life and death. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
The drama of the disenchanted who threw himself into the street from the tenth floor, and as he fell he could see through the windows the intimacy of his neighbors, the small domestic tragedies, the furtive love, the brief moments of happiness, whose news they had never reached the common staircase, so that at the moment of bursting against the pavement of the street had completely changed their conception of the world, and had come to the conclusion that life that left forever through the false door It was worth living.
8. Etching (Rubén Darío)
Rubén Darío was an important poet and journalist of Nicaraguan origin, recognized as one of the leading exponents of modernism. His metric style, the rhythmic adaptation of his verses, and the lexicon he uses are very particular. Among other things, his works enriched the literary creation made in Castilian.
From a nearby house came a metallic and rhythmic noise. In a narrow enclosure, between walls full of soot, black, very black, some men worked in the forge. One moved the bellows that snorted, making the coal crackle, throwing whirlwinds of sparks and flames like pale tongues, golden, blue, shining. At the glow of the fire in which long iron bars were being reddened, the faces of the workers were seen with a tremulous reflection.
Three anvils assembled in rough frames resisted the beating of the males that crushed the red-hot metal, making a red-hot rain jump. The smiths wore wool shirts with open collars and long leather aprons. They were fascinated to see the fat neck and the beginning of the hairy chest, and the gigantic arms came out of the loose sleeves, where, like those of Antaeus, the round stones seemed to be the stones that wash and polish the torrents.
In that cavern blackness, in the glow of the flames, they had Cyclops carvings. On one side, a window let in just a beam of sunlight. At the entrance to the forge, as in a dark frame, a white girl ate grapes. And on that background of soot and coal, his delicate and smooth shoulders that were naked made his beautiful lily color stand out, with an almost imperceptible golden tone.
9. A diminishing patient (Macedonio Fernández)
Of Argentine origin, Macedonio Fernández is recognized as a Latin American writer and philosopher of great influence for authors such as Borges and Cortázar. His works are recognized for their philosophical and existential depth, perhaps a product of Macedonio’s predilection for contemplative activity and solitary life.
Mr. Ga had been so assiduous, so docile and prolonged patient of the Therapeutic Doctor that now he was only a foot. Once the teeth, the tonsils, the stomach, a kidney, a lung, the spleen, the colon were excised successively, now the valet of Mr. Ga came to call the Therapeutic Doctor to attend the foot of Mr. Ga, who sent for him.
The therapeutic doctor examined the foot carefully and “shaking his head seriously” resolved: “There is too much foot, rightly feels bad: I will draw the necessary cut, a surgeon.
10. The dinosaur (Augusto Monterroso)
We finish this selection with one of the most famous Latin American micro-stories. In fact, until recently, this story was considered the shortest fiction in universal literature, due to the complexity and aesthetic richness it contains. Its author is Augusto Monterroso, writer of Honduran origin, nationalized Guatemalan and based in Mexico City.
When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.