Grandma’s Wake by Emilio Díaz Valcárcel, 1958
The magic trick:
Masterpiece of complex black humor
This story’s humorous acceleration recalls such classics as “The Night The Bed Fell.” But whereas James Thurber employs no layers of social commentary, “Grandma’s Wake” is black humor in the extreme. It’s morbid on the surface, and culturally damning in its subtext.
And that’s quite a trick on Díaz Valcárcel’s part.
Uncle Segundo found grandma a bit pale, but not as bad as they’d told him. He put his hand on her chest and told her to breathe, to come on and breathe, and he nearly turned the bed over and threw grandma on the floor. He patted her on the face and then claimed she was all right, and that he’d come from so far away and that he’d left his business all alone and this was the only – listen, you – the only chance right now. Because after all he’d come to the funeral, and nothing else.
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