The Best Continental Short Stories of 1923-1924/Preface


The increasing popularity of the short story throughout the world may be directly attributed to the influence of modern civilization. The Industrial Revolution of the past century has been supplemented today by an Artistic Revolution whose basis is the application of the time-saving devices of industry to artistic production. Literature more than any other art is the reflection of the æsthetic develop ment of a nation. Hence, with the growing tendency towards efficiency and standardization, the short story has achieved an importance second to no other branch of literature.

Psychologically the public is able to obtain the same reaction from a well constructed short story as from a novel ten times as long. This represents an economy of time and money for the reader. The writer has learned to depict a life story whether tragic or comic in twenty odd pages as vividly as in two hundred and fifty. Moreover the short story, by reason of its brevity, permits the author to revise his work in a way which the exigencies of modern life render difficult in the case of a novel. It has thus become possible to produce a story far more correct artistically than would otherwise be the case, with a minimum of labor. Perhaps this is not the reason for the remarkable growth in popularity of the short story, but certainly in Continental Europe, the importance of the short story in the literary life of each country is in direct proportion to the economic development. In Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and Latvia, where one finds practically the same standard of life or civilization as you will in the Anglo-Saxon countries, the short story has attained the same prestige as in America, England, and France. On the contrary, in those countries where life is still more or less mediæval, the production of short stories is practically minimum.

The task accordingly of choosing the best short story published in each country since July, 1923, is none too easy. There is an abundance of material in the case of certain nations which renders the selection of one story always open to question. Other countries afford so little choice that it is extremely difficult to find even one story worthy of the title “best.” I have been guided, therefore, in my selection not only by the usual standards of unity, construction, style, interest, and completeness of plot, but likewise by a consideration of the customs and intellectual development of each nation.

“The Place in the Sun,” by V. Blasco Ibanez is unquestionably the best story published in Spain during the past year. It is difficult, however, to limit one’s choice to one story. In Italy, I have been obliged to select two stories, the “Red Note Book,” by Luigi Pirandello and the “Illusion,” by Virgilio Brocchi. I have omitted, however, two other stories of almost equal merit. In the case of Norway, Denmark, Portugal, and Bulgaria, I had great difficulty in finding a sufficient choice. I am particularly indebted to M. Nicholas Stoiloff, Councillor of Legation, for his invaluable assistance in the case of Bulgaria.

“The Yearbook of the Continental Short Story,” which represents the bibliography of this volume is necessarily incomplete, since it includes only those works which either one of my assistants or I have read. I should be greatly indebted if the various publishers and editors of magazines whose names are not included in the Yearbook would forward to me in care of the Credit Lyonnais, 19 Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, copies of their magazines, books, or catalogues, in order that they may be inserted in future volumes.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1981, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 42 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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