In Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation Books), Uruguayan writer Galeano presents miniature narratives of creation myths and current events from all over the world.

What inspired this particular project?

For years it was growing inside me. Little by little, I came to accept the challenge of recounting the history of the world in 600 short stories. An old Pedro Infante tune helped me out, the one that says the world can't be that big if it fits into five letters. I am not motivated by pedagogical desires. I simply wanted to celebrate the glow of the terrestrial rainbow, which is much more colorful than the celestial one.

What were your criteria in selecting stories to be part of the book?

The stories chose me. I didn't seek them out. I wrote 900 stories; 600 survived. It hurt to sacrifice the others, but they seemed out of tune in this symphony I was trying to compose as an homage to human diversity. The stories that remained met each other in the book and there they began to sing together.

Are all societies doomed to amnesia—or are there communities that have preserved their collective cultural memory?

The world, which is the private property of a few, suffers from amnesia. It is not an innocent amnesia. The owners prefer not to remember that the world was born yearning to be a home for everyone.

You pay special attention to how women have been vilified throughout history without noting their complicity in so many systems of racism and inequality. Why?

The book touches on unknown or little known events; it is the past as seen by those who made history without knowing they were doing so, and in the end were left out. In the case of women, official history has suppressed half of the human species. I believe these stories ought to be told and retold. A friend of mine, who has a nasty sense of humor, said to me, “And then the system, in its infinite perversity, offered you Condoleezza Rice.”

Your books are said to straddle genres. How would you like your books classified—or are such distinctions unimportant?

Like all or nearly all of my books, this one is unclassifiable. I would like to speak a language capable of uniting all literary genres, in which form merges with content and thus manages to unite past and present, head and heart. I wanted to write a book without borders, unbounded by time or place, and that is why from the very outset, writing Mirrors was an adventure in freedom.