Twenty-six outstanding stories by twenty talented Costa Rican writers.
Country Focus: Costa Rica
Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion
Edited by Barbara Ras
Forward by Oscar Arias
Stories by Alfredo Aguilar, Alfonso Chase, Fabián Dobles, Louis Decoudray, Quince Duncan, Fernando Durán Ayanegui, Carlos Luis Fallas, Mario González Feo, Juaquin Gutiérrez, Max Jiménez, Carmen Lyra, Carmen Naranja, Yolanda Oreamuno, Abel Pacheco, Julietta Pinto, Uriel Quesada, Samuel Rovinski, Carlos Salazar Herrera, José León Sánchez, Rima de Vallbona
Translated by Kirk Anderson, Zoe Anglesey, Gabriel Berns, Linda Britt, Pamela Carmel, Leland H. Chambers, Carol Christensen, James Hoggard, John Incledon, Will Kirkland, Angela McEwan, Mary Gomez Parham, Barbara Paschke, Margaret Sayers Peden, Mathew Quilter, Mark Schafer
Published by Whereabouts Press, 1994
Genre: Short Stories
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)
Editor Barbara Ras’s Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion is a boon for any Spanish-challenged reader curious about Costa Rican literature. Easily accessible translations from this Central American country are hard to find. In this much-needed compilation, Ras has rounded up twenty-six stories from twenty different Costa Rican authors. Since this collection was meant to help travelers feel a deeper connection with the places they were visiting, the stories are organized by seven geographical regions.
The wide variety of literary genres that Ras included—folklore, suspense, history, social commentary, nature, science fiction, magical realism—reveals multiple facets of Costa Rican culture that may have been missed if the tales had been limited to contemporary fiction. Here are six that stand out:
- “The Girl Who Came from the Moon” by José León Sánchez. A little girl living in abject poverty believes her life will improve if she runs off with a man who promises to build her a pretty bed. Sometimes narrators are unintentionally humorous in their naivete. This child’s innocence is gut-wrenching.
- “In the Shadow of the Banana Tree” by Carlos Luis Fallas. In this surprisingly upbeat tale, friendship eases the hardships of working for the United Fruit Company.
- An excerpt from Abel Pacheco’s novel Deeper Than Skin. Social commentary via prose poetry. The segment titled “Rail” seethes with bitterness.
- “The Spirit of My Land” by Yolanda Oreamuno. A beautiful piece of nature writing that pulses with the author’s love and respect for the Costa Rican countryside.
- “Pastor’s Ten Little Old Men” by Carmen Lyra. An unlikely friendship sparks when a little rich girl asks a laborer why he’s talking to his toes. In this case, the child’s innocence is a virtue.
- “We Have Brought You the Sea” by Uriel Quesada. After his impoverished parents aren’t able to grant his last wish, a dying boy’s young cousins come to the rescue. As if you couldn’t guess, this one is a tearjerker.
Quote from “The Spirit of My Land” by Yolanda Oreamuno:
If you are passing through, the way you would pass through the countryside, you probably wouldn’t hear the voice of the cicadas; the voice would stay behind, useless and resonant. But suddenly you might notice it: you could have been there many hours inside the note, swimming in it and not hearing it, unless the note grabbed you, but in an instant your ear is alert and the note manifests itself at the peak of its delirium, its scream, its resonance; at a peak that seems to have another peak inside, and that same note, without changing, seems higher, more vibrant, tenser, like a cord strained to infinity, like a wave surging on a land of tides and tempests. And suddenly you notice it, wrapping up and smothering your senses. You are just ears open to the vibration of the countryside. You can’t touch it, or see it, or feel it, you can only hear the amazement growing, from amazement to anguish, anguish to pain, pain to drowsiness, until you are cataleptic, by now you hear nothing and you know nothing, you only listen, listen, listen…