‘The Woman Who Looked Like Me’ by Felisberto Hernández, translated from Spanish by Luis Harss

It begins, “A few summers ago, I began to suspect that I had once been a horse.” The wonderful thing about Felisberto’s stories is that suspicions like that turn out to be well-founded. There is no line between memory and fantasy, or between the life of the mind and the territory of the story—why should there be? It turns out our equine hero was mistreated, escaped, got into scrapes, found love, was tickled in the most painful ways, committed murder, and so on. We spend the rest of the story firmly in the horse’s consciousness, but the opening line isn’t merely a framing device, an easy way to ease us into the fantastical. This remains an actual memory. As if to prove the point, the narrator pauses to inform us that, as a horse, he has just recalled eating some mints while he was still a man.

For anyone foolhardy enough to want to explain such a story, Piano Stories also contains the helpful ‘How Not to Explain My Stories’, in which Felisberto describes his work as being “on guard against the mind contemplating it when that mind suggests too many grand meanings or intentions.” If the story is true to itself, he writes, “it will give out a natural poetry it is unaware of.”

Collected in Piano Stories, New Directions, 2014

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