‘The Watchful Toad’ by Lydia Cabrera, translated by Alberto Hernández-Chiroldes and Lauren Yoder

The stories in this collection are based mostly on Yoruba mythologies and folk tales exported to Cuba along the slave routes. They cross the line between the natural and the supernatural with a shrug of the shoulders, “no transition and no surprise”, borrowing from Cortazár’s ‘Axolotl’. This is a recent addition, and is opening up avenues in my thinking around narrative progression and the interaction of the mundane and the supernatural. This story, and the others in the book, don’t merely dwell in fantasy, for want of a better word, for its own sake, but they signify a much deeper understanding of the moral ambiguity a good story must be able to contain, and the redemptive unity of all things in nature.

First published in Spanish as ‘El sapo guadiero’, in Cuentos Negros de Cuba, Ediciones Universal, 2012. First published in English in Afro-Cuban Tales, University of Nebraska Press, 2004