A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 18
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
Xiao-er was overcome by a mysterious loneliness such as he had never experienced before. The vast blue sky hung above him in silence. The people had no choice but to go on living their pitiful lives beneath that sky, buffeted by the winds that blow from above. What loneliness! And how strange, he thought, that he had never known this loneliness until now.
I love that this tale crosses storytelling traditions. It’s a parable, an urban myth, a scary story, and even an anecdotal war wound exaggeration. It’s also a visionary depiction of death and spiritual awakening, and it offers an unexpected moral in its twist-ending.
It tells the tale of Chinese soldier Xiao-er. He’s a heroic sort—noble and brave, a stand-up kind of guy. While fighting in the Sino-Japanese war (1894-5), he takes a sword through the neck. It’s a fatal wound. I mean it has to be a fatal wound, right? Err… maybe, maybe not. But the wound certainly does change Xiao-er, and not just physically.
I won’t give you any more than that plotwise. It’s a good short read at about nine pages, and one of my favorites in our Akutagawa collection (which also includes the famous tales “Rashomon” and “The Hell Screen”). Stop by the library and check it out.
Review by Matthew