The Beggar Boy At Christ’s Christmas Tree by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1876
The magic trick:
The brief, first-person frame narration
It isn’t much. Two sentences at the start. Three sentences at the end. But it’s an interesting technique. Dostoyevsky eschews the standard third-person narration by inserting himself (or some unnamed writer) as the storyteller. This lends the story a bit more authority, a bit more truth somehow. As the story develops and the reader learns of the tragic subject matter, this “real-life” assertion in the frame further emphasizes the piece’s social conscience. And that’s quite a trick on Dostoyevsky’s part.
I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.