Piano Stories, by Felisberto Hernández

My stories have no logical structures. Even the consciousness undeviatingly watching over them is unknown to me. At a given moment I think a plant is about to be born in some corner of me. Aware of something strange going on, I begin to watch for it, sensing that it may have artistic promise. I would be happy if the idea weren’t a complete loss. But I can only watch and wait, indefinitely: I don’t know how to nurture the plant or make it bloom. All I have is the feeling or hope that it will grow leaves of poetry or of something that could become poetry when seen by certain eyes. I must take care that it does not occupy too much space or try to be beautiful or intense, helping it to become only what it was meant to be … 

Read more in Little Star Weekly

This week in Little Star Weekly we feature the Piano Stories of Felisberto Hernández. Hernández was born in Uruguay in 1902 and began at age fifteen to play the piano for silent movies. By adulthood he was an itinerate musician and raconteur, scribbling stories in hotels and basements as he toured the provincial concert halls and upholstered living rooms of Argentina and Uruguay. As Calvino tells us, “What really unleashes [his] imagination are the unexpected invitations that admit the shy pianist behind the doors of mysterious houses, lonely quintas inhabited by rich, eccentric characters, women full of secrets and neuroses.” Though he died penniless and nearly invisible in 1964, his work was eventually collected and came to be cherished by Calvino, García Márquez, Cortázar, and Bolaño. Michael Hofmann has called him “a loopier, vegetarian Kafka, inhabiting his maze of personal baroque.”

New Directions has recovered a long-out-of-print edition of Hernandez’s stories and publishes it with introductions by Francine Prose and Calvino.

Read an interview here with the Quay Brothers, about their recent stop-motion film based on a Hernandez story.

(The stories’ translator Luis Harss has also translated Sor Juana’s Dream and is the author of several books, including Mystical Dreamers, published this month.)


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