‘Who Are These People?’ by Ronald Sukenick

At the end of the eighteenth century, the German Romantic poet and philosopher Friedrich Schlegel wrote, “a fragment, like a miniature work of art, has to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world and be complete in itself like a hedgehog,” This is a more apt description of the short story, a fragment implies that there is something missing, that it is a surviving part of a whole, that it eludes to something more complete – I’m thinking of Sappho, Sophocles and Antimachus; whereas the short story (at least the ones I enjoy) are small, prickly, perfect in their own haecceity, and slightly humorous. Sukenick was one of the founders of the Fiction Collective (later Fiction Collective Two), a radical publisher of experimental short fiction; its authors included Mark Amerika, Chris Mazza, Fanny Howe, Samuel R. Delaney, Curtis White and Mark Leyner. This story, set in the queue for the Uffizi Gallery, is an absurd take on tourism, racism, sexism, cultural appropriation and misunderstanding. I’ve not had much luck visiting galleries, in 1993 I had been in the Uffizi fifteen minutes when there was a bomb threat and the building was evacuated. I’ve not been back. In 2004, in Berlin, I planned to visit the huge MoMA exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie, only to find the line stretching for what seemed like miles along the Potsdamer Strasse. On the approach to the entrance, there was an illuminated sign informing us of the wait time – twenty-eight hours.

Collected in Doggy Bag, University of Alabama Press, 1994. Online here