A solid collection of 39 stories covering an approximate half-century’s worth of fiction variously illustrative of the conflicting principles (cited in Fuentes’s prefatory essay “The Storyteller”) of “immediate effect” espoused by Argentinean Julio Cortázar and “interrelated narrative constellations” as practiced by his countryman Jorge Luis Borges. These great exemplars, Gabriel García Márquez, and João Guimarães Rosa are all represented by often-anthologized tales—but there are numerous choice surprises here (including the Dostoevskyan “Hell Most feared,” by Uruguay’s underrated Juan Carlos Onetti, Argentinean Nelida Pinon’s hair-raising “House of Passion,” and—an interesting closing story—Mexican Pablo Soler Frost’s parabolic, and quite Borgesian, “Clamour”). There are relatively few overtly political stories (Colombian Policarpo Varon’s “The Feast” is notable); in fact, many of the best pieces here offer imaginative treatments of familiar family conflicts (especially Brazilian Moacyr Scliar’s terse, brilliant “Van Gogh’s Ear” and Mexican Sergio Pitol’s richly imagined “Bukhara Nocturne”). Oddly, there’s nothing from such modern masters as Mario Benedetti and Augusto Monterroso—not to mention Mario Vargas llosa, and Carlos Fuentes himself.
Still, a very satisfying selection—and, at $14, a tremendous bargain.