‘Like a Pariah’ by Margarita Garcia Robayo, translated by Charlotte Coombe

Maybe it’s the old trope that novels tell the story of a community, short stories an individual. Maybe it is the way the brevity of a short story throws small details into greater focus. Whatever the reason, I’m always surprised by how bodily so many short stories are. Margarita Garcia Robayo takes this tendency towards the haptic and corporeal, and amplifies it: the bodies in her short stories and novellas are disobedient, abject, and frequently unpleasant. She is a master at tracing how we are undone by ourselves, how bodily cravings and rebellions thwart our plans and ideals. But through an alchemy she seems to have perfected, her stories transmute these flawed bodies into things beautiful and dignified. I could have chosen any of the pieces from her first collection in English, but ‘Like a Pariah’ always stays with me, thanks to its final line, rendered Carver-esque by Coombe’s excellent translation: “I’m perfectly alright.”

Collected in Fish Soup, Charco Press 2018