The short Latin American stories are characterized by transmitting in very few words an accumulation of emotions and thoughts , among which are 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 length is less than the 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 the north of Mexico to the south of Argentina we can find numerous short stories full of vitality. In the following we will see a selection of 10 short stories written by different Latin American authors , including a brief commentary on them.
1. The Giraffe (Juan José Arreola)
A story by Mexican writer Juan José Arreola, who has won numerous awards for his unparalleled anecdotal style. The story La Jirafa belongs to the collection of short stories entitled “Bestiario”, published in 1972. The main character is a representation of various vital aspirations of the human being .
Realizing that he had put the fruit of a favorite tree too high, God had no choice but to lengthen the giraffe’s neck.
Quadrupeds with volatile heads, the giraffes wanted to go above their bodily reality and entered resolutely into the realm of disproportions. Some biological problems had to be solved for them that seem more like engineering and mechanics: a nervous circuit of twelve meters long; a blood that rises against the law of gravity by means of a heart that works as a deep well pump; and still, at this point, an ejectile tongue that goes higher, surpassing with twenty centimeters the range of the belfos to gnaw at the buds like a steel file.
With all its technical prowess, which extraordinarily complicates its gallop and its love, the giraffe represents better than anyone the dalliance of the spirit: it seeks in the heights what others find at ground level.
But because she finally has to bend over from time to time to drink the common water, she is forced to perform her stunt in reverse. And so she catches up with 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 Latin American literature of the 20th century. His style is characterized by the inclusion of elements of magical realism, imaginary mathematics, metaphysics and universal philosophy, among others. This micro-story speaks precisely of dreamlike experiences mixed with the most human acts .
What will the indecipherable future hold? It will dream that Alonso Quijano can be a Don Quixote without leaving his village and his books. It will dream that an eve of Ulysses may be more lavish than the poem that narrates his works. He will dream that generations of men will not recognize the name of Ulysses. He will dream dreams more precise than today’s vigil. It will dream that we will be able to work 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 a single bird could kill you. He will dream that forgetting and remembering can be voluntary acts, not aggressions or gifts of chance. He will dream that we will see with our whole body, as Milton wanted from the shadow of those tender orbs, our eyes. He’ll dream of a world without the machine and without that aching machine, the body.
Life is not a dream but it can become a dream, writes Novalis.
3. Amor 77 (Julio Cortázar)
Of Argentine and later French nationality, 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 surrealistic content that goes beyond any timeline . The following microstory manages to convey in just two lines the content of a whole complex love story.
And after doing everything they do, they get up, they bathe, they powder, they perfume, they dress, and so progressively they become again what they are not.
4. Tin Lamps (Álvaro Mutis)
Álvaro Mutis, Colombian poet and novelist living in Mexico until his death in 2013, is one of the most important writers of the contemporary era . His style is also anecdotal and the content of several of his writings reflects some of the political and personal concerns, among which is the pain and human suffering.
My job is to carefully clean the tin lamps with which the local lords go out at night to hunt the fox in the coffee plantations. He is dazzled when suddenly confronted by these complex artifacts, smelly of oil and soot, which are immediately darkened by the flame that, in an instant, blinds the yellow eyes of the beast.
I’ve never heard these animals complain. They always die of the astonishment caused by this unexpected and free light. They look at their executioners for the last time as if they were meeting the gods at the turn of the corner. My task, my destiny, is to keep this grotesque brass always bright and ready for its nightly and brief veneration function. And I who dreamed of one day being a laborious traveler in a land of fever and adventure!
5. Duel (Alfonso Reyes)
Alfonso Reyes was born in northern Mexico in 1889 and served not only as an important poet and essayist, but also as an influential diplomat. He grew up in the pre- and post-revolutionary context of the early 20th century and held important government positions. This is also reflected in some of his short stories, such as the one below.
From one end of the Chamber to the other, the aristocratic deputy shouts:
-“Slap yourself in the face!
And the Democrat, shrugging his shoulders, replies:
-“You should consider yourself dead in mourning!
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, due to its pessimistic content and charged with negativity, although personal and coherent.
I had known them and missed them from their mother. He kissed on both cheeks or on the hand of every indifferent woman who was presented to him, he had respected the prostibular rite which forbade the joining of the mouths; brides, women had kissed him with tongues on their throats and had stopped wisely and scrupulously to kiss his member. Saliva, heat and slips, as it should be.
Then the surprising entry of the woman, unknown, through the horseshoe of mourners, wife and children, weeping friends sighing.
She approached, undaunted, the very whore, the very daring one, to kiss the coldness of her forehead, above the edge of the coffin, leaving between the horizontality of the three wrinkles, a small carmine stain.
7. El drama del desencantado (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. He 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 man who threw himself into the street from the tenth floor, and as he fell he saw through the windows the intimacy of his neighbors, the small domestic tragedies, the furtive loves, the brief moments of happiness, whose news had never reached the common staircase, so that in the instant of bursting against the pavement of the street he had completely changed his conception of the world, and had come to the conclusion that that life which he abandoned forever through the false door was worth living.
8. Etching (Rubén Darío)
Rubén Darío was an important poet and journalist of Nicaraguan origin , recognized as one of the main 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 Spanish.
From a nearby house there was a metallic and rhythmic noise. In a narrow enclosure, between sooty, black, very black walls, men were working in the forge. One moved the bellows that snorted, making the coal crackle, sending out whirls of sparks and flames like pale, golden, tile, glowing tongues. At the glow of the fire, in which long iron bars were reddened, the faces of the workers were looked at with a trembling reflection.
Three anvils assembled in crude frames resisted the beating of the males who crushed the burning metal, sending a reddish rain down. The smiths wore woolen shirts with open collars and long leather aprons. They could see the fat neck and the beginning of the hairy chest, and out of the loose sleeves came the gigantic arms, where, as in Antaeus’, the round muscles looked like stones from which the streams are washed and polished.
In that black cave, at the glow of the flames, they had carvings of Cyclops. On one side, a window let in just a beam of sunshine. At the entrance to the forge, as if in a dark frame, a white girl was eating grapes. And on that sooty, charcoal background, her delicate, smooth, naked shoulders brought out their beautiful liss-like colour, with an almost imperceptible golden hue.
9. A diminishing patient (Macedonian Fernandez)
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 Macedonian’s predilection for contemplative activity and solitary life.
Mr. Ga had been so assiduous, so docile, and so long a patient of the Therapeutic Doctor that he was now just a foot. With the successive removal of teeth, tonsils, stomach, kidney, lung, spleen and colon, Mr. Ga’s valet arrived to call the Therapeutic Doctor to attend to Mr. Ga’s foot, who sent for him.
The therapeutic doctor examined the foot carefully and “shaking his head severely” resolved:
-There’s too much foot, no wonder it feels bad: I’ll trace the necessary cut, to a surgeon.
10. The dinosaur (Augusto Monterroso)
We end this selection with one of the most famous Latin American micro-stories. In fact, until recently, this story was considered the shortest micro-story in universal literature , because of the complexity and aesthetic richness it contains. Its author is Augusto Monterroso, a writer of Honduran origin, nationalized in Guatemala and living in Mexico City.
When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.