Short story: “How We Got Mother Back”

by look i have opinions

“How We Got Mother Back,” by Valério Romão, as translated from Portuguese by Jethro Soutar

From Granta 125: After the War, Autumn 2013 (story online here)

3,619 words

What the actual fuck?

I suppose I wouldn’t be shocked by the subject matter if it weren’t presented with such conviction and aplomb. I’ve certainly read stories of more bizarre events that affected me less.

Although the father doesn’t overtly show authority or control over the situation, his emotional abusiveness is obvious to an outsider. Here’s a bit of passive-aggression I especially like:

and father, head bowed, eating reluctantly, slowly stood up to leave the communal table, because for once those gathered around him had failed in their duty to cower before the eminence of his woe

The wig makes its first appearance after a drunken verbal fight, and it’s not hard to imagine that the aggressions and appeasements will continue to escalate in like fashion. At the end, the father is drunk again. The last line’s inevitable suggestion of sex is just light and understated enough to be hilarious.

A note on the formatting. It took me a reread or two to realize that those floating, indented paragraphs are basically parentheticals. The dialogue is formatted the same way, and without initial capitalization. No quote marks. I suppose unconventional formatting is a nearly universal signal that we’re somewhere unfamiliar.

Apparently, this story is also going to be a film. (Link is in Portuguese.) I look forward to it with morbid fascination.

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