The Heliotrope Wall and Other Stories

Ana Maria Matute, Author Columbia University Press $65 (103p) ISBN 978-0-231-06556-6
Elements of myth, fantasy, fairy tale and the supernatural intrude in a majority of these seven extraordinary short stories of childhood and adolescence by Spanish writer Matute. In ``News of Young K.,'' a parable on brotherhood, a schoolyard bully pulverizes a cretin who wants to befriend him, but we later learn they share a dark secret. ``The King of the Zennos,'' which miraculously compresses a cycle of murder and rebirth into a few pages, is about the rejection of the mythic dimension by the over-rational mind. The fable ``Do Not Touch,'' whose teenaged heroine, Claudia, seemingly possesses psychic powers to destroy objects, deals with the stifling of the feminine principle. A National Book Award winner, Matute, in the title story, imposes an overwrought lyrical style on the thoughts and emotions of a 12-year-old boy whose parents are separated. Her straightforward, offhand approach works better, as in ``A Star on the Skin,'' which perfectly captures the anxieties of a young girl on whom the finality of death is suddenly thrust. Matute transforms the typical tale of the sensitive, precocious child into something magical and uniquely her own. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
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