The Crime Of The Mathematics Professor by Clarice Lispector, 1945
The magic trick:
Weirdness that isn’t just for weirdness’s sake
Wow, what a remarkable story. Some authors try to create a weird vibe, maybe a fever dream kind of deal. This story just gives you a remarkably eschew scenario. This guy is burying a dead dog on a hill. Not his dog, though. It’s a stray dog he found. He’s burying as an homage to his “real” dog, the one that is presumably still alive but now abandoned. He has some guilt issues. So yeah, that’s intense and incredibly memorable. I read a lot of short stories. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of the jumble in your brain. I won’t be forgetting this one any time soon.
But it’s not just a showy, wild scenario. It’s incredibly literary and thought-provoking. The opening scene is a stunner – what with the twilight gloom and the bells ringing in the valley. It’s amazing. Then, throw in the mention of the Catholics in the town going to Mass. Suddenly, we’re looking at this man’s entire story through the framework of a religious comparison. This is good stuff! And that’s quite a trick on Lispector’s part.
“I recall when you were little,” he thought in amusement, “so small, cute, and frail, wagging your tail, watching me, and my discovering in you a new form of possessing my soul. But from that moment, you were already becoming each day a dog whom one could abandon. In the meantime our pranks became dangerous with so much understanding,” the man recalled with satisfaction, “you finished up biting me and snarling. I ended up throwing a book at you and laughing. But who knows what that reluctant smile of mine already meant. Each day you became a dog whom one could abandon.”
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