The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories by Margaret Jull Costa (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa, Thomas Bunstead, Peter Bush, Kit Maude, Kathryn Phillips-Miles & Simon Deefholts) - review by James Womack

James Womack

Tales from the Peninsula

The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories



The best anthologists in Spanish literature are the barber and the curate of some place in La Mancha, whose name I don’t wish to recall. While Don Quixote lies asleep after his first sortie as a knight errant, the two of them – kind, careful, slightly hypocritical – go through his library and get rid of the books that have turned his brain. But they also show a fine sense of which books or parts of books should be kept (while reserving judgement on Miguel de Cervantes’s own La Galatea). The irony is that all this sensitive discrimination is useless:

That very night the housekeeper set fire to, and consumed, not only all the books that were in the yard, but also every one she could find in the house; and no doubt many were burned, which deserved to have been kept as perpetual archives. But this their destiny, and the laziness of the inquisitors, would not allow; so that in them was fulfilled the old proverb, a saint may sometimes suffer for a sinner.

There is another moral to be drawn from this scene, of course: an anthologist’s lot is not a happy one. There will always be some critic who deprecates the principles behind the selections, who is willing to burn everything down rather than praise what has been saved. It’s very tempting

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