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short story

010Signs and Symbols by Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Signs and Symbols is the story of a parents’ birthday visit to their son who suffers from acute delusions of reference, a belief that irrelevant phenomena (such as the shape of clouds to the pattern of a shadow) contain hidden messages of detailed personal significance.

It was originally published by the New Yorker, under the title Symbols and Signs. Apparently Nabokov argued with the editor over many of the changes made to their version, as within the text there are a lot of hidden messages for the reader to decipher.

The story is also featured as a New Yorker Fiction Podcast.

Nabokov wrote many novels and short stories in Russian and English. His most famous novel is Lolita.

Signs and Symbols continued »

007A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Despite his legendary status today, A Hunger Artist is one of the few stories Kafka published during his lifetime. Much of his work was published posthumously by Max Brod (despite Kafka’s instructions to burn everything, unread).

Typical of Kafka, this story is about a victim of society. The protagonist pursues his art to his ultimate demise. This story is an obvious influence on Oscar winning movie The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, although I’ve never seen that admitted anywhere.

Other essential Kafka reads include The Metamorphosis and The Trial
A Hunger Artist continued »

004August by Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz was a Polish Jew who spent most of his life in Drohobycz (now in Ukraine).  

Although his body of work only includes two books (Cinnamon Shops aka. The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass) and some uncollected stories, he wrote some of the most imaginative and visual prose you’re ever likely to read.

August is the first story in Street of Crocodiles and a beautiful example of his talent.

During WW2, he lived under the protection of Felix Landau, a Nazi Gestapo office who admired his drawings. In 1942, Karl Gunther, a rival Nazi, shot Schultz as he walked through the “Aryan Quarter” with a loaf of bread.

Since his death, much of Schulz’s unpublished work, including an unfinished novel called The Messiah, has been lost and never recovered.

In 2001, a mural drawn by Schulz in Landau’s home became the focus of international controversary, after it was rediscovered, when Poland and Ukraine accused Israel of stealing parts of it.

August continued »

001Misery by Anton Chekhov

chekhov

Chekhov is considered to be the grandfather of the modern short story.  

As he is out of copyright, dozens of websites publish hundreds of his stories.  The Literature Network is probably the best I found (links to short stories are down the left side bar).

With such a prolific writer, it can be hard to know which story to start with.  I’d like to suggest Misery, a short, concise and, as the title suggests, miserable piece.  If you like that, maybe try (in no particular order): The KissThe Lady with the DogGooseberriesThe Man in a CaseWard No.6The Duel and The Steppe.

Misery continued »