cover image The Taker and Other Stories

The Taker and Other Stories

Rubem Fonseca, , trans. from the Portuguese by Clifford Landers. . Open Letter, $15.95 (166pp) ISBN 978-1-934824-02-3

The stories in Fonseca's collection, the first translated into English, are beautifully grim and superbly clever as stand-alone reading. Together, though, these tales of very bad people doing very bad things can be fatiguing. From the first story to the last (a bored businessman runs down pedestrians to relax; two women vie, fatally, for the narrator's affections), Fonseca is relentless in his cynicism toward the human condition. In the title story, a poet threatens, beats, rapes and murders his way across Rio de Janeiro before meeting his match, an equally masochistic woman. “Account of the Incident” is a relatively whimsical entry, about a fight among neighbors over a dead cow recently hit by a bus. Like Flannery O'Connor, Fonseca uses cathartic, revelatory horror to explore the logical ends of society's collective fears and foibles; in his world, hope is a foolish luxury and the only way to live is to take. For all his grim plotting, though, every story is wired with moments of explosive humor; fans of South American literature and the macabre should be pleased. (Nov.)