The Best Continental Short Stories of 1924-1925/Preface


Generalities, like statistics, are usually logical but they are often erroneous. To summarize in a few lines even some of the most universal characteristics of the contemporary short story in twenty-odd countries is as difficult a task as the description of the similarity of languages represented in the Tower of Babel. Nevertheless, there are certain generalities about Continental literature of 1924–25 which have the double merit of being logical and at the same time, exact.

One finds throughout European literature of 1924–25 and particularly in the short story which is perhaps the most exact reproduction of political feeling, an affirmation of the old Italian saying: Non ricordar il capestro in casa dell’impiccato. (Do not talk of the halter in the house of the man who has been hanged.) Throughout contemporary literature there is a pronounced absence of naturalism. Allegory and fantasy have assumed a rôle far more important in the creation of the short story on the continent than in the United States or Great Britain. It is as if the authors sensed vaguely the world weariness of strife and of hatred and sought in some measure to attain an imaginary Utopia. The public has apparently lost interest in the vital naturalism of Schnitzler and of Gorki. Sometimes this aversion to drama does not seek a substitute in allegory. There has likewise been a marked increase in short stories dealing with children, as for instance in the “Youthful Athenæum Days” by Baekelmans which is characteristic of this tendency. There are, of course, excep tions to every fixed rule. “Jerzy” by Grubinski affords an excellent example but even in the case of Grubinski who has imitated rather successfully the Grand Guignol type of literature, there is a marked novelty. Grubinski has chosen a juvenile character for the chief figure of his dramatic story. One of the most remarkable books of short stories is that of Signorina Pettini, one of which has been translated for this volume. It was first published in a small edition inasmuch as Signorina Pettini was practically unknown in the Italian literary world. Her success was immediate and as startling as many sudden events in Italy. Her sense of dramatic values and her keen appreciation of the construction of the short story shows her to be perhaps the most successful new writer of short stories in Europe.

trust that my readers will bear in mind the enormous difficulties incident to the compilation of this volume and hence in considering the literary value of certain stories translated for instance from the Lettish or from Finnish that it has been necessary to translate the stories first in German or Swedish and then into English. The question of choice of short stories is likewise extremely difficult. 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 none too easy 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 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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