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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ana María Shua

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To purchase Microfictions

Title: Microfictions
Author: Ana María Shua
Genre: Stories
Written: (2009)
Length: 196 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Microfictions - US
Microfictions - UK
Microfictions - Canada
  • Selected from four volumes of Shua's stories
  • Translated by Steven J. Stewart

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Our Assessment:

B+ : uneven, but the best are very good indeed

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 16/2/2009 .
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2009 Pedro Ponce

  From the Reviews:
  • "Argentinean poet Shua is a master of the bon mot. Each of these concise, lyrical pieces -- somewhere between aphorism, anecdote and poem, and rarely longer than a paragraph -- contains a fluid, perplexing, and (often) highly amusing thought. (...) These dreamlike landscapes will delight and charm readers new to Shua’s work." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Shua’s fictions often work like Zen koans, compelling the reader to mull over paradoxes dramatized in a handful of suggestive sentences. (...) Arguably, Shua also makes strides in genre theory. In designating her creations "microfictions," she suggests their remarkable scale while hinting at the layers beyond the visible afforded by the possibilities of this still-emerging form." - Pedro Ponce, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Microfictions collects almost two hundred pieces from four of Ana María Shua's collections of microfiction, the second sampler of these works to appear in English within a year (Quick Fix being the other). This is a collection of what is truly flash-fiction: most pieces are only a few lines long; the only one that extends over more than a page is a set of fourteen shorter pieces.
       Shua's stories, scenes, and observations most often come with some twist, ranging from an unusual way of seeing things to an unexpected final turn to the piece. Two typical succinct fictions read in their entirety:

Fried Eggs

I have nothing against fried eggs. They're the ones who look at me with amazement, terrified, wide-eyed.


With a ferocious grimace, gushing blood and spittle, the werewolf opens his jaws and bares his yellow fangs. A curious buzzing perforates the air. The werewolf is afraid. So is the dentist.
       The collection is divided into seven thematic sections, the pieces loosely fitting into them (the two above, for example, from the 'Monster'-section). The weakest sections are those covering 'Dreams' and 'Magic': Shua relies on unusual perspectives as well as surreal and unexpected effects in most of her pieces, and these are so readily found in the anything-goes unreality of the dreamer's world (or that of the magical) that most of the pieces here aren't as jarringly effective. Still, there are some nice touches here as well -- such as in Waiting in Line, where the narrator waits for hours in a line for some bureaucratic formality, only to find:
Many hours later, I give my name at the window, only to discover I'm in the wrong dream.
       Elsewhere, Shua's sense of humor makes for the success of the piece, as in:

In his dreams the ventriloquist is a dummy. The dummy, for his part, dreams of the ventriloquist's wife.
       Shua does write a fine last line, managing to surprise with quite a few of her twists -- even something as simple as:
The Keys of Fate

There are six keys of fate. The golden key is the key to misery. The silver one is the key to pain. That of Chinese copper is the key to death. The iron one is the key to power. The platinum one is the key to happiness and wisdom. The bronze key is the key to the garage.
       And Shua also does unusual perspectives well, whether in the entirely fantastical (of which there are several examples here) or the seemingly simply real:
Watching TV

How strange to be like this, on the sofa, watching my own face making clumsy faces on the screen. The show's not bad but my acting leaves a lot to be desired. I don't recognize my voice; and my gestures seem false, derivative, hardly spontaneous. And the strangest thing, perhaps, is that the show is live.
       Not all the pieces work ideally in this ultra-short form, with some feeling too much like a mere premise (though often a very good one). The best, however, are fully formed, word-perfect snapshots.
       Microfictions is an uneven collection, with a number of pieces that fall flat and others that are too forced. Nevertheless, on balance this is a very enjoyable collection, and the best pieces impress mightily; certainly one is left hungry for more of these morsels.
       Well worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 May 2009

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Microfictions: Reviews: Ana María Shua: Other books by Ana María Shua under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinean author Ana María Shua was born in 1951.

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