‘The Dead Man’ by Horacio Quiroga

Quiroga, Horacio 1920

The Dead Man by Horacio Quiroga, 1920

The magic trick:

Brilliantly describing the process of dying without ever mentioning physical pain

Quiroga takes the reader through the final minutes of a man’s life, from accident to death. It’s an intense psychological trip through his final thoughts. Oddly enough, the whole thing is made all the more haunting – and realistic – by Quiroga’s omission of any mention of physical pain. And that’s quite a trick on Quiroga’s part.

The selection:

The proof? But he himself planted this grama grass that is poking between his lips in squares of land a meter apart! And that is his banana grove and that his starred mare snorting cautiously by the barbed wire! The horse sees him perfectly; he knows she doesn’t dare come around the corner of the fence since he himself is lying almost at the foot of the post. The man distinguishes her very well, and he sees the dark threads of sweat on her crupper and withers. The sun is as heavy as lead, and the calm is great; not a fringe of the banana trees is moving. Every day he has seen the same things.