Tag Archives: short story

Fiction Fiesta welcomes Andrés Neuman, Juan Villoro and Niall Griffiths to Cardiff

26 May
foto Neuman 2015_Antonia Urbano

Andrés Neuman, author of Traveller of the Century

Now in its sixth year, the fiesta celebrates literature and football with events in Cardiff over 31st May and 1st June.

In The Latin American Short Story, acclaimed international writers Juan Villoro (Mexico) and Andrés Neuman (Argentina) will be in conversation with Cardiff University’s Director of Creative Writing Richard Gwyn. Both writers are acknowledged masters of the short story, and will read excerpts of their work, and discuss the form and the influences on their writing in an evening event: 31 May, 6.00pm, Council Chamber, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff University CF10 3AT.

There will be a wine reception at this event, and donations collected for Wales PEN Cymru. Entry is free but it is recommended that you reserve tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fiction-fiesta-2017-the-latin-american-short-story-tickets-34619051515

On the second day, Villoro and Neuman kick off Football Fiction Fiesta in the Japan Room of the Wales Millennium Centre with Writing Football. Inspired by the UEFA Champions League final, writers respected internationally for their football writing will discuss the craft of writing about the beautiful game in the literary genre.


Journalist and prolific writer Juan Villoro has been by turns a cultural attaché and a DJ. He is Mexico’s greatest living writer of short stories, following that country’s great tradition of the genre. Passionate about football, he is perhaps best known for his book God is Round.

Poet, writer, translator and blogger Andrés Neuman is author of Traveller of the Century, selected as a Book of the Year by The Guardian, the FT and The Independent in 2013. His award-winning work has led to nominations as most outstanding Latin American author (Hay Festival), as well as inclusion in Granta magazine’s special edition on emerging Spanish language authors, with a short story translated by Richard Gwyn, who will be chairing the event.

Football Fiction Fiesta completes its hat-trick of events with Liverpool and Wales legend Ian Rush in conversation with Niall Griffiths.

niall griffiths_pic

Niall Griffiths, author of Kelly + Victor

Ian Rush, who, amongst other notable deeds, scored the winning goal in Wales’ only victory against Germany in Cardiff in 1991, is this year’s ambassador for the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff. Niall Griffiths is a Welsh novelist and journalist, author of GritsSheepshagger, and Kelly + Victor. He is also a life-long Liverpool fan.

Creator of Fiction Fiesta, Cardiff University’s Director of Creative Writing, Richard Gwyn is excited about the creative mix of football and writing: “The UEFA Champions League Final provides the perfect opportunity to bring three great writers to Cardiff. Juan Villoro, with God is Round, has written what is possibly the greatest book ever about football, while Andrés Neuman writes regularly in the Spanish media on football. Both are passionate advocates of the belief that football and great literature can mix. Niall Griffiths and Ian Rush make that fusion a living reality.”




Short story versus novel

13 Oct

Every story encompasses a world. Every story accounts for a series of actions, whether experienced or imagined. The story, if it is any good, also contains within it a substratum, or an undertow, through which the reader is guided towards some underlying truth – or the possibility of a truth. This may consist of a paradox or even a seeming contradiction, but it will, in some way, be traced or suggested by the contours of the outer story.

This notion, at least, can be applied to the short story. When it comes to anything longer I tend to balk.  Today on the Guardian website, I read an article about the new novel by the admirable Donna Tartt, a monster of a book at 771 pages, and I recall what Italo Calvino once wrote:

‘Long novels written today are perhaps a contradiction: the dimension of time has been shattered, we cannot love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes off along its own trajectory and immediately disappears. We can rediscover the continuity of time only in the novels of that period when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded, a period that lasted no more than a hundred years.’

I don’t know whether or not I entirely agree with this, but the idea of time progressing as a linear continuum does seem to be tied to a social structure where roles (including that of the author) were more fixed, sedentary things. The author proclaimed his (and it was usually a his) authority through texts permeated with the authorial voice, and which sustained that voice, gave it credibility as a constant over a period of calculable time.

And who wants that authority? Not me. Not I, even. Which is why, on days like today, the simple rigour of the short story seems so much more appealing, and far less tiring.

The Handless Maiden (conclusion)

29 Oct


We leave the beach and set off up a path through a narrow gorge, Goril walking ahead with the French, Kurt following her like a puppy. It is night now, but the moon has risen and we have no trouble finding our way. In a sheltered spot, a greyish puddle of wet, viscous mud lies below a small waterfall, space enough for two or three to bathe. Goril and Ana take off their clothes and do not need to exercise much persuasion to get Kurt to do the same, Germans will strip off at any opportunity; even so, the girls give him a hand pulling off his pants and the three of them plunge into the soggy bath, falling about and smacking each other with dollops of gloopy clay. I cannot help but notice that Kurt has an erection, which he tries ineffectually to protect with a hand at first, but is soon so covered in wet clay that it barely matters, and the three of them lollop like imbeciles in the pool, shrieking, hooting and plastering each other with sticky mud.

With a jolt, I feel the effects of the potion rise through my body, bubbling through my veins, and I am lifted bodily to a place where everything has the semblance of itself but is undeniably other; the rocks, the cliffs, the faces of my friends, the strange mutt belonging to the French couple (which seems to be sporting an oversize Gallic moustache); everything has been replaced by a simulacrum of itself, and I too, am a new and alien version of me, and all my sense receptors, sight and touch and hearing and smell, are lodged not in me but in this impostor who has occupied the zone I once thought of as my body. So long as I keep calm, I tell myself, everything will be all right. I glance over at Callum, who, like me, has kept his clothes on. He smiles vacantly in my direction but I can tell, or think I can tell, that he is going through his own epic moment, and I decide (or whatever it is that has commandeered my brain decides) that, for now, language is something I might try and avoid. But Callum is edging over to me and is speaking, or rather, he is making sounds I cannot hope to understand. The three mud-creatures in the pool are clambering over each other, slithering like hideous aquatic lizards through the slime. I notice how long and red Ana’s tongue seems, and how it ululates as she makes strange noises in the round ‘o’ of her mouth, and how that orifice is enveloped by a grey carapace of mud on her face and in her hair and how this might reasonably be expected to diminish my attraction to her but in fact produces the opposite effect; the three of them have grey slimy bodies but red tongues and blue eyes, and the whites of those eyes are flashing horribly in the moonlight. Goril and Ana are kneeling, facing each other, and they begin to kiss, slowly and lasciviously, and Kurt is lying on his belly, flat out in the muck, staring at them, his pupils massively dilated, and then he turns on his side and begins to masturbate, mechanically, never taking his eyes off the girls. Goril looks up and sees what he is doing, cannot help but notice him thrashing away, and she shrieks, reaches for a handful of mud and throws it at Kurt, and Ana joins in, hurling fistfuls of sludge at Kurt, who rolls over and moans, in sorrow or delight, I can’t tell, he wears an expression of demented, anguished joy while the two women, who are no longer laughing, stand over him, pelting him with slushy missiles as he cowers and grovels at their feet, and I observe this macabre scene without much concern, and I hear, in the distance, the sound of a conch, blasting a hole in the petrified night air.

On cue, the assault ends, and someone, it might be me, suggests a swim and we all run back down to the beach, and the three naked mud-people race to get to the sea first, the rest of us jogging behind. The French have gone home, no doubt wishing to protect their child and dog from further scenes of depravity. Then I am very slowly stepping out of my jeans and laughing uncontrollably, which makes it hard to keep my balance, and Ana and Goril and Kurt are standing by the water’s edge, caked in the dried mud, and as I wade into the sea, the water closes around me with a lovely cool feeling, like acquiring a shiny new skin, and I am impossibly high, floating on my back beneath the moon and the stars, being swallowed up by the unimaginable vastness of the sky, and afterwards I find my blanket and curl up by the fire and weep, although with no sense of sadness, and Ana joins me and both of us sit wrapped in the blanket weeping and looking at the flames, and then Kurt is running up, also in tears, but his are unmistakeably tears of despair, he is yowling, yelping, running up to us and then running off down the beach, out of his head with grief, as well as simply out of his head, returning and asking us where is Goril and us saying, Kurt we have no idea where she is but Kurt keeps asking us where is Goril, then running off, sobbing, then coming back and begging, pleading with us to help him find Goril, he cannot live a moment longer without knowing where is his darling Goril, and when he has gone Ana turns to me and we kiss, and then a minute, or a hundred years later, I look up, and Goril is standing there, her arm around Callum’s waist, head on his shoulder, and Kurt is by the fire, silent at last, but in seething suppressed rage, and we are all tired of this performance and Ana tells Kurt to get a grip, to please, for God’s sake, just get a grip and fuck off and go to sleep.

In the morning I make a pot of coffee and decide to look around. Antonio and Pedro are asleep by the remains of the fire. I find Goril and Callum under a blanket in one of the abandoned houses, and there is no trace of Kurt. We spend all morning combing the beach and searching the gorge but do not find him. What more can we do? Ana says she refuses to feel guilty on Kurt’s behalf, and Goril agrees: that’s life, she says, that’s the way it goes, I mean, no one invited him. Callum and I are silent and uncomfortable. The Andalucians mooch, and we all smoke weed.

Later that afternoon we hear that the body of a young man has been washed up on the beach in the nearby town where we went for beers and tapas. Somehow, no one is surprised.

That same evening, I am emerging from the sea after a swim, with Ana, and we see a column of Guardia Civil moving quickly down the distant cliff path, on foot, a snake-trail of green uniforms, six of them. They must have found Kurt’s car. We rush back up the beach to warn the others.

We arrive at the house that Goril and Callum have occupied, just before the guardia. Goril is naked, and as a young officer, a lieutenant, comes into the room with two of his men, she takes her time, carelessly pulls on a shirt, one of Callum’s, from a pile on the floor, but doesn’t bother buttoning it, sits with the shirt half-open, honey-coloured legs stretched towards the lieutenant, crossed at the ankle, and she talks to him. Without prior agreement, she has become our spokesperson, answering all the questions on our behalf in near-perfect Castilian. The lieutenant is handsome and dark-eyed, interrogates her in a civil, professional manner, scribbling in a notebook as he stands, and smiles at her once, a little too freely, and he tells Goril we were seen by the bar owner talking to Kurt, were seen leaving in his car, and she says yes Capitán, we met him, but this is all we know: he was distraught, broken-hearted after a love affair, we tried to help him, we tried talking to him, to comfort him, but he must have wandered off during the night, he must have walked into the sea. She shakes her head sadly. The young guardia allows his gaze to linger, casts his eyes over her without expression, snaps his notebook shut.