Microstory and pandemic

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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Comment on the proliferation of short story writers on social networks

The invention of the short story, contrary to what some think, is millenary. The fables of antiquity, the jokes of all peoples and cultures, the limericks, the small “stories”, all heirs to an ancestral, oral tradition, where a story is told quickly, and may or may not contain a moral, satirical or merely descriptive background.

Several writers exercised their power of synthesis by creating micro stories of one or two lines. A famous example is that of the Honduran writer (based in Guatemala) Augusto Monterroso (1921/2003): “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there”. Specialist in short stories and aphorisms, Monterroso sought to create a mood and suggest a situation, relying on the reader's imagination. Always remembered is the example of Hemingway (1899/1961), who, being the author of lavish novels, wrote (or reported on a sign in a window, according to him) an even shorter drama: “For sale: baby shoes, never used”.

Americans call it flashfiction. As in every genre – or subgenre – there are few creators, some masters and many diluters. A process similar to that which occurs with the haiku, or haiku. It's amazing how many people think that lining up words in three lines is a haiku. Just as a joke, an everyday case or a comment on banalities is not a mini-short story, nor even a microchronicle.

This is where the crux of the problem comes in, the “mystery” of literature. An individual with a certain spirit could even utter phrases similar to those of Monterroso or Hemingway, but that alone is not enough to characterize him as a writer, creator or genius. It's like a guy hitting a fried egg on point and thinking he's a cook, or doing a nice doodle and thinking he's an artist. Everyone has the right to make beautiful doodles from time to time, or even to create a good sentence. Or at least the right to try.

The mini-story, as it ended up being defined in Brazil, is not an invention of the internet either, although it has found favorable terrain here to multiply. Writers like Dalton Trevisan were already experimenting with the form in the 1980s. The man from Paraná released a volume of micro stories, Oh yes? in 1994. In magazines and newspapers, many writers exercised the economical format, often forced by the limited space.

The always connected Marcelino Freire challenged one hundred writers to write works with a maximum of 50 letters. The result was the volume The Hundred Smallest Tales of the Century, published in 2004. Renowned names accepted the challenge, but the sieve repeats itself: there is too much gravel for too little diamond.

The internet is home to several sites and blogs dedicated to the micro genre. They echo the old McLuhan, who anticipated this relationship between form and content in his famous formula “the medium is the message”. The urgency of information, the speed of reading, the inadequacy of long texts on the cell phone screen, the vertiginous spiral of information that accelerates with the evolution of technology, all this provides fertile ground for the germination of this literary grass. They are not trees, nor do they intend to be, but they play an essential role in the literary ecosystem of the XNUMXst century.

Short, well-told stories don't have to be so extreme that they can be summed up in one line. Half-page mini-stories, one or two pages long, expand the possibilities of the “clear blow”, as Cortázar said. Besides, he himself is a cultist of the short form, with its cronopios, fame and hopes.

Interestingly, the pandemic caused a proliferation of mini short stories on the network. I say “curiously” because one would assume that the mandatory recess would motivate people to write longer, more elaborate, reflective things. Not that size matters, in literature. We know that a 400-page novel can be as deep as a puddle of water, and a verse deeper than an artesian well. Despite this, it was reasonable to imagine that the cloistered period allowed broader and deeper dives into the literary exercise. I even believe this has happened in some cases.

However, many people who were content to tell stories in the bar, in the schoolyard or at the class barbecue began to “express themselves”, so to speak, in the classroom. www. They are confined, but through the permanent and ubiquitous gaps of the internet, they distill their “creativity” into a few lines, which can be read on the bus, on the train, in the waiting room of the office, or even between one commercial and another on TV.

Those who reach the end of the 2021st century will be able to better appreciate what resulted from this process. As I was involved in the plot, and moved by permanent curiosity, I dedicated some time to follow the production of small format producers. There are good nuggets, such as the work of Sonia Nabarrete, a writer with a Nelson Rodriguean profile (but a feminist!), who approaches relationships during the pandemic with an erotic and satirical bias. Published in XNUMX by Feminas in two small volumes (While we were in parentheses... e The world stopped, but we didn't come down) his short stories outline a series of confined behaviors, forming a mosaic of flaws, desires and frustrations, with hints of social and political criticism.

Today, when we research everyday life at the beginning of the 19th century, we point the magnifying glass at chroniclers such as João do Rio, Machado de Assis, Lima Barreto and a few others. In a hundred years, if there is still life and culture as we define it today, scientists/computers will probably be searching for videos, photos and posts about this terrible phase caused by Covid-XNUMX and its mutations, something equivalent to the First World War in the previous century.

If there is any room left for literature, there will be substantial reports and a myriad of micro or mini-short stories or virtual chronicles. Sonia Nabarrete will certainly be present as an attentive investigator of the human psyche, without ever giving up laughter and irony to acutely portray the purgatory we are going through.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

 

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