‘It’s All a Circus’ By Ana María Shua, translated by Steven Stewart

I am massaging the rules a bit here and, instead of a single story, am acknowledging a brief handful of stories from Ana María Shua’s circus-themed short story collection Without a Net. The book is split into sections: there are sections about performers, the history of circuses, the animals. One section, entitled It’s All a Circus, is about varieties of circuses. The stories have names like ‘Dubious Circus,’ ‘The Ghost Circus,’ ‘The Poor Circus,’ ‘The Poorest Circus’ – in some ways, it feels like a Mad Lib, each story born of a prompt from the title’s adjective. ‘The Poor Circus’ is about an event where the performers enact multiple roles due to budget restrictions, while ‘The Poorest Circus’ is about a circus so poor that spectators have to sit and imagine the show. Each is playful yet hauntingly resonant. The stories are lovely – they build a multilayered story of what is, by nature, a multilayered show. There are stories as risk-taking as trapeze artists, as awe-evoking as the Big Top itself.

Published in Without a Net, Hanging Loose Press 2012

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