Horacio Quiroga and Charles Baudelaire as Precursors of Contemporary Flash Fiction

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Date: Annual 2018
Publisher: Vishvanatha Kaviraja Institute of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 4,124 words

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Introduction

Micronarratives are petite, compressed streaks of texts. In a way, they are comparable to the ice cube chunks that used to form a part of an iceberg, before breaking off beginning to roam freely all across the narrative sea. Their mere existence is a consequence of literary fragmentation and alienation from the long narrative vein.

Due to the plural nature of their structure and length, they have been called by multiple names: from short fiction to short short story and flash fiction, to the more recent, pompous titles such as: Six-Word Story, Twitterature (140-character stories), Drabble (100 words) or Dribble (50 words).

The prehistory of micro-narratives lies in the first written words, recorded from oral tales; in folk forms such as fables (notably Aesop's fables in the West) as well as worldwide parables laden with socio-cultural content (as in the Panchatantra and Jataka tales in India). The tales of Turkish populist philosopher Nasreddin or Nasreddin Hodja with their subtle touch of humour and moralising intend are another example. In China, Chan (Zen) koans compiled by the Chinese Wumen Huikai epitomize the polarities of consciousness that form and obstacle/barrier to one's insight.

In this paper, I underline the influence of Charles Baudelaire and Horacio Quirogaas, pioneers of modern short fiction. Baudelaire's Little Poems in Prose gave its first name to this new genre.

Themes and motifs in Quiroga's works

One of the most important motifs present in the works of Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) is that of death. The representation of death in his narratives is extremely realistic. Death appears as a place of no return, and almost all the protagonists in his stories die suddenly and violently. Alongside death, another recurring motif in Quiroaga is that of insanity. It is often a cause of death or linked to the motif of death, sometimes anticipating it or rather acting as its intermediary. The best example of what I have just mentioned would be the famous quiroguian story "The slaughtered hen" when the foolish children of the Manzini married couple kill their only healthy daughter. Due to their madness, they saw her as a hen. Another motif highlighted in this story is that of terror. Some of Quiroga's most successful stories are horror stories, as for example "The feather pillow". The jungle motif, as a symbol of everything that is wild and barbaric, also appears as part of the contrast between the natural and the artificial. The jungle environment serves Quiroga to interpret a sort of return to the origins of humanity, when there were still strong ties between human beings and nature. His descriptions of vast forests, rivers, wild animals (for instance, snakes) are very powerful, and he also focuses on endemic fights between humans and the untamed jungle, which in most cases end up as tragedies.

Eroticism is yet another motif which appears in many of his stories. Initially, he seems to focus exclusively on clandestine relations between men and women from different social classes. With the passage of time,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A596850008