cover image Night Train

Night Train

A.L. Snijders, trans. from the Dutch by Lydia Davis. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (126p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2856-5

Davis, lauded for her translations from the French, makes her first foray into Dutch with the English-language debut of Snijders, author of what he describes as “zeer korte verhalen,” or very short stories. Writing on average one story per day, Snijders has accumulated some 1,500 of these passing, pleasant fancies, almost a hundred of which appear here. In these fully-realized miniatures, the reader meets swans with a secret (“The Swans”), hears a conversation between the narrator and a ship’s captain (“Christmas Present”), and is invited to meditate on a rooster married to a chicken (“Because His Wife”). “Generative Grammar” and “Bees” feature snippets of poems and newspaper stories, respectively. In “Years,” the author’s mother falls from a window and lands unhurt. “Accountant” relates a dream concerning a glass eye. “Cork Oak” concerns the adventure of a hermit, and “The Heart of the Story” features a Christmas tale about a spider. Throughout, there’s a good deal of attention paid to dikes and honeybees, adding up to a multidimensional evocation of rural life in Holland. One has a feeling, at the end of each sketch, most of which fit on one page, that Snijders has left nothing unsaid, summing up each with a perfect declaration. (Oct.)